Plant a row for the hungry

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(Host) Comentator Ron Krupp urges gardeners to share their vegetables with people in need.

(Krupp) I had an epiphany while digging carrots in my community garden plot on a cool September morn. I was surrounded by an abundance of fresh vegetables and was taken up by the immensity of the gifts the earth and sun provide.

You could observe this bounty if you were to travel to the Tommy Thompson Community Garden in the Intervale in Burlington. There are 155 garden plots filled with two acres of vegetables, flowers and herbs. You would also see a sign that reads “Plant A Row For the Hungry.” Nearby, under a shaded pole structure, a large plastic crate is filled with summer and winter squash, cucumbers, carrots, beets, peppers and tomatoes. These vegetables are taken twice a week to the local food shelf.

This initiative of providing surplus food to those in need is part of a program called Plant A Row for the Hungry. Launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers of America, its purpose is to feed the hungry by establishing networks in every state and province in North America. Plant A Row takes surplus vegetables and puts them in the hands of local food pantries, soup kitchens and group homes.

Burlington’s Plant A Row program is coordinated in part by Burlington Parks and Recreation. Fresh vegetables are provided to the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Lund Family Center. Wanda Hines, the Director of the Chittenden County Food Shelf, told me that the donated fresh produce doesn’t solve the problem of hunger, but it helps. She went on to say that the people who come to the Food Shelf don’t usually have the luxury of fresh produce. Most donations are canned goods or other foods that have a long shelf life. By the way, 35% of those using the food shelf are children.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that a good many home vegetables go to waste. They wilt and rot because they aren’t picked. Some estimates run as high as 25%. That’s tons of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes and greens. And that’s a real shame because there are people in real need of fresh food. Why grow it if nobody’s going to benefit from it?

Why not start a Plant A Row project next year in your own community? A friend of mine, Ruth Painter of Williston, says her congregation at the Williston Federated Church has been collecting fresh garden produce for the hungry for a number of years.

Few things in life are as satisfying as growing vegetables in your garden, watching them mature and ripen, and sitting down to a home-cooked fresh garden meal. And taking surplus fresh vegetables and placing them in the hands of a community group that serves the needy can only add to your feelings of accomplishment.

For more information on the Plant a Row program, visit the Gardening Writers’ Association online at

This is Ron Krupp, the northern gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.

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