It’s been my experience that gardeners tend to be generous folks.
The pile of tomatoes that appears every summer in the Beacon Journal newsroom — and possibly every office across America — is evidence of that. Gardeners spend hours digging and weeding and watering, only to give away a good portion of the fruits of their labor.
That’s why Plant a Row for the Hungry is such a great program. It draws on gardeners’ love of working the earth and their giving spirit, and channels those traits into the production of nutritious food for people in need.
Plant a Row for the Hungry was started in Anchorage, Alaska, by Jeff Lowenfels, a garden columnist for the Anchorage Daily News. He got the idea of encouraging his readers to dedicate a row in their vegetable gardens to growing food for a local soup kitchen.
Lowenfels took the idea national in 1995, when he became president of the Garden Writers Association, and it has since spread through the United States and Canada.
Here in Akron, the Beacon Journal and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank have been teaming up on a local Plant a Row program since 2000. Last year, the program brought in 6,615 pounds of homegrown produce to the food bank, enough to provide 5,512 meals, according to the food bank’s spokesperson, Kat Pestian.
The food bank distributes the produce to the food pantries, soup kitchens and other hunger programs it serves in eight counties. I’ve been to the food bank, and I’ve seen how eagerly the people from those partner agencies snap up the fresh food.
The beauty of the program lies in its simplicity. You just plant an extra row of fruits or vegetables in your garden, and at harvest time, you give whatever that row produces to the food bank. There are no forms to fill out, no donation totals to track.
The food bank has set up sites around the area where you’ll be able to drop off your produce. We’ll run a list of those sites regularly in the Beacon Journal starting in June, once they’re up and running for the season.
So as you’re putting in your vegetable garden this year, consider planting a little extra for your neighbors in need. Good choices to plant are veggies that have a long shelf life and don’t bruise easily, particularly broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peas, green beans, peppers, eggplant, squash, onions, beets, potatoes and cucumbers.
While you’re planting food for your family, you’ll also be sowing the seeds of kindness.
Homegirl home decor line
Hudson’s Homegirl is going global.
Gina Bishop, who has earned a local following for her periodic Homegirl barn sales, is coming out with her own home decor line. Bishop is working with a company based in China that will produce the products and distribute them to retailers internationally.
She said the line includes items such as accent pillows, throws, wall decor and other decorative accessories, all with a handcrafted feel. Most will be manufactured in India, except for a few higher-priced pieces she will make herself. Eventually she hopes to have some of her products made in the United States, she said.
The line is scheduled for launch next spring, although she hopes to have some of the products available at her next barn sale, June 5 to 7 at 2357 Hudson-Aurora Road. (Hours are 6 to 8 p.m. June 5 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 6 and 7.) She also plans to sell the items at the Country Living Fair from Sept. 12 to 14 in Columbus.
Bishop said she doesn’t yet know which stores will carry her products. She hopes to attract independent retailers when she attends the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, a big wholesale show.
The bubbly Bishop said she never expected this turn of events when she started repurposing flea-market finds and selling them out of her barn as an outlet for her creative energy.
“This is the largest undertaking I have ever done, and the learning curve is huge,” she said.
Don’t worry, Homegirl fans. She’s still planning to hold her barn sales. In fact, when we talked, she was driving a U-Haul truck to the Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market, where she intended to stock up.
At heart, she’ll always be a Homegirl.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.