Some people might think I’m talking about a metaphysical seed – the kind that germinates into a new life, a new business, a new charity, a new product.
Actually, I am talking about real seeds – lettuce seeds, tomato seeds, pepper – eggplant – pumpkin – vegetable seeds of all sizes and shapes. An organic gardener for close to 30 years, I spend the cold, dark months of winter planning what will grow in my garden, when I will plant it, and how much I will need for my family.
But then, I add a row or two extra of everything I plant; I grow food for the hungry. So do millions of other gardeners across the country and around the world.
Don’t believe me? Google “plant a row.” You’ll get more than 27 million results. A lot of the results are for programs that ask gardeners to Plant A Row (PAR), literally. The PAR program began in Alaska almost 20 years ago to help feed the hungry but it has participants (couldn’t resist) all over the country. (More on PAR in a later post.)
So there are a lot of people growing food to feed the hungry. And there are a lot of organic gardeners like me who take the program just one step further. We don’t buy just any vegetable seed; we buy seed that is locally grown, not genetically modified, and helps support other charitable programs. I buy from a small but growing farm network — Hudson Valley Seed Library.
The farms that make up this group raise seed you can trust, that’s a given. But the partners who started this business, Ken Greene and Doug Muller, also use artists to create seed pack covers and donate free seeds to a school garden, community garden, or garden organization in need.
One other program that really shows the power that a single gardener who has some seeds, some dirt and some determination has, is Ample Harvest.
Started in 2007 by a New Jersey gardener who grew more than he and his wife could eat, today you can find the gardeners who support this organization in all 50 states. The first donation went to a shelter for battered women just 4 years ago. Since then, Gary Oppenheimer’s “home grown” operation has drawn national attention including getting its founder named a CNN hero.
Ample Harvest has also gotten the support of some pretty heavy hitters including the US Department of Agriculture, Google, the National Council of Churches and the National Gardening Association in its quest to “…diminish hunger, improve nutrition and help the environment.”
Growing a garden this summer and want to help? Ample Harvest offers an easy, zip code-based search tool that will help you turn up food pantries in your back yard that could use your extra veggies.
Got a food pantry that could use some fresh produce? You can also register at Ample Harvest so people in your neighborhood can find you.
Just one small act, planting a seed, can make a huge difference in your neighborhood, your city, your state and country….and yes, the world.