Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
People who might not have had fresh vegetables this summer enjoyed a bounty of various kinds thanks to a Community Garden plot and the new Plant A Row program. In its first year, the Plant A Row program went well, said Penny Velk, the Havre Food Bank's director. Approximately 20 area gardeners planted extra vegetables to donate to the food bank, bringing in roughly 500 pounds worth. Seeds were made available at the start of the program, Velk said, but some people who didn't take seeds still brought in produce. Recipients of the vegetables were given an assortment of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, squashes, green beans, onions and even pumpkins. The Community Garden plot, a separate Endeavor supervised by Velk, also produced well, with hundreds of pounds worth of tomatoes harvested, along with hundreds more pounds of an assortment of various peppers and other vegetables, including squashes, onions, cabbage and herbs. Many of the starter plants were donated by Bob Doney and Wal-Mart, Velk said. "Without Bob Doney's donation from his greenhouse, we would not have had a garden," she said. Most of the vegetables already have been given out to area residents, but there are still tomatoes, some still not ripened completely, and a few peppers, Velk said. Along with the vegetables, Velk said, recipes were given to recipients for some creative ways to prepare different types. She even cooked some of the more unusual squashes to show how they could be prepared and provide a taste to let people test if they would like them or not. Velk said she plans to plant both the Community Garden plots next year instead of just the one that was cultivated this summer. With both planted, a surplus could be grown and sold at the local farmers' market. Proceeds from those sales would be used to improve the plots, she said. Velk is busy planning for more community outreach for the next growing season, she said, to increase awareness about the Community Garden plot and Plant A Row programs and how people can help. Some volunteers helped with the planting, and there was one steady volunteer who helped weed, but it would be nice to have more helpers next year, Velk said. Most help is needed during planting, she said, but all help throughout the season is welcome. While the earth is resting, the food bank is not. The demand is increasing, Velk said, with 1,331 people seeking perishables in August and 1325 in September. Workers distributed 180 boxes of food this September, up 50 boxes from last September. A lot of elderly in the community are coming to the food bank for the first time, Velk said, with 76 senior citizens coming this September versus the 45 that sought aid last year at the same time. "I think that population is finally kind of putting their pride aside and saying, 'Yeah, I need help,'" she said. Some produce comes in from Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods and area donors, but the cupboards are looking a little bare, even when it comes to staples like canned soup, between shipments from the state food bank, Velk said. To help, people can perform a number of different functions, Velk said. Volunteers don't have to lift anything; there are plenty of other activities to do, she said. And monetary donations or donations of food are always welcome, she said. Velk gave a "thank you to the community for their support; we couldn't do it without their support and their contributions." For more information, call Velk at 265-2007, or drop by the food bank between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the additional hours of 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Suggestions are welcome, Velk said.