Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten Havre Community Garden plots are playing host to burgeoning vegetable plants that will help feed people in Havre later this summer and fall. While food donations from the garden plots to the Havre Community Food Bank are not required, "They almost all do plant a few rows for the food bank" in the 40-feet by -40-feet plots, Diane Savasten Getten, who heads up the community project with Human Resources Development Council District IV in Havre and is the food bank director, said. "It gives people the opportunity to grow their own food if they don't have the space in their yards to do it themselves," she said. "A lot of families do it together, so it's a family activity." The program, originally a project run by Hill County Extension Office, has been run by HRDC for 10 years. In 1980, the extension office began the community garden, intended mainly for use by low-income families, as part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Judy Ward, a county extension agent and home economist at the time, worked to get the program started. "It came out of a need for stretching the food dollar and raising some healthy vegetables," she said. Harry and Juanita Atchison managed the land owned by the city initially, and the neighbors acted as watchdogs. "For the most part we had no problems whatsoever with any vandalism ... ," or anything like vandalism, Ward said. Instead, people respect the project. "I'm so pleased it's still going," Ward said, especially since the extension agency discontinued the program in 1989. Max Conner got involved when the project was still ran by the extension office. "I was on the board of the Giveaway House, and we needed fresh vegetables," he said. So he approached the extension office and secured three plots where potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes and onions were grown. Later, Conner managed the project even after the extension office program discontinued and said he believed in it because, "there are a lot of people who do not have a garden spot, and particularly people who are low-income. They need to have a place to supplement their fresh vegetable intake. And this is a very good location to do that," he said. Savasten Getten said, "(Growers) appreciate the city's making the land available." A rototiller is available on site and HRDC absorbs the cost of water when it exceeds the $60 fee collected from plot users. People receiving the fresh vegetables have a lot to appreciate, too. In 2007, the Blue Horizon 4-H Club donated 888 pounds of produce to the food bank. "This year the community food bank has two plots in the community garden," Penny Velk, food bank manager, said. The food bank plots already include self-starter dill and will have tomatoes, assorted peppers, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets, cabbage, bokchoy and assorted herbs. Bob Doney, the owner of Bob's Greenhouse, donated roughly 100 tomato plants along with about the same amount of assorted pepper plants. Wal- Mart also donated starter plants, andBarkus Home Center donated seeds. "So we're going to have a pretty neat garden," Velk said. Doney, who donated plants for the third year, said, "It's a good gesture, and I always had extra plants, so rather than just throwing them out, I found a home for them, really." The need for fresh produce is serious. "If we don't get donations of fresh produce, we don't have fresh produce," Velk said. "It's a well-known fact ... that poor people eat poorly because they can't afford to go into the store and buy the good, fresh produce," she added. The lack of fresh vegetables can have health implications since processed vegetables and even fresh vegetables from grocery stores are picked before they are completely ripe, said Lisa Ranes, diabetes care coordinator and a nutritionist at Northern Montana Hospital. When left on the vine to ripen completely, a vegetable is "better tasting, and it's more nutrient dense," she added. Canned vegetables tend to contain high levels of sodium, which can cause blood pressure issues, Ranes said. The brighter colored a vegetable is, the more antioxidants it has, Ranes said, adding that carrots, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes are all considered "super foods" because of the nutrient levels and antioxidant levels. "And those are easy ones to grow around here," she said. Home-grown vegetables also contain lower levels of pesticides, Ranes said. "It's more eco-friendly," she added. People should have five servings of vegetables a day one cup of raw or one-half cup of cooked vegetables equals one serving Ranes said, but a lot of people don't get that recommended amount. To get that amount, Ranes suggested placing the emphasis at meal time on vegetables instead of meat. "Fifty percent of your plate should come from vegetables," she said. Velk recently implemented another program in Havre to get more vegetables distributed to families that wouldn't necessarily get them otherwise the Plant A Row project, through which area gardeners plant extra to then be donated to the food bank. "I have about 20 committed individuals that I know of that are planting a row for the food bank this year," she said. Velk said she expects the donations to be a big help. "We're figuring if each garden plot even yielded 10 pounds, and there are 20 gardens, that would really impact us," she said. "And I'm expecting more than that." Even people without gardens can get involved. "We also are in real need of volunteers, and if someone can't plant a row or doesn't have a garden but would like to weed awhile, we are going to have some ... set weed-awhile times," Velk said. No specific times have been set, but they will probably be during the evening hours, she added. People will be needed later in the summer. "When things start to need to be harvested, we will need individuals to help us bring the harvest in," Velk said, adding that last year 700 pounds of tomatoes were harvested from 100 plants. "It was unbelievable," she said. For more information about how to help, call Velk at 265-2007 between the hours and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. "Thanks to everybody for their support, and hopefully we'll get some folks out there to weed awhile," Velk said.