Grow for Your Neighbor program sowing kindness
The cucumber was the talk of the library.
Librarian Lena Berrios saw the plump, pale-green vegetable growing outside of her window and commented on how quickly the cucumber sprouted. Soon, most of the staff at the Salem Church Library stopped by to check on the produce.
On Thursday, Jonathan Bryant plucked the vegetable from the garden.
The cucumber is part of three square garden plots in the back of the Spotsylvania County library. And those plots are part of a bigger plan aimed at providing fresh produce to local people facing hunger.
Grow For Your Neighbor sprouted in April, when square-foot gardening kits went on sale. Those kits included a contract to provide some of the bounty to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.
Donations of fresh produce are now being accepted on Saturdays at the Spotsylvania Farmers Market. In the past four weeks, more than 800 pounds have been donated.
That food will be used to feed people who turn to area food pantries for help.
Some 30,134 area residents get food from the food bank’s member agencies, mobile food pantries and other feeding programs, said Dayna Klein, the major gifts, grants and fundraising manager. And when people struggle with tight budgets that leave little room for food, they often bypass fresh produce for cheaper, easier options.
But Grow For Your Neighbor isn’t just filling stomachs. It’s meeting other needs, as well, because the gardens have been donated to libraries, schools and community groups.
One garden helps Spotsylvania families living in motels get fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another helps special education students at Ni River Middle School learn new skills. Special education and science teachers at the school have collaborated to keep the garden growing— and they added a greenhouse as well.
“Our goal is to continue to maintain positive and lifetime relationships by fostering citizenship skills, volunteerism, vocational goals, community outreach, cooperation and promote friendships between all classrooms on campus,” said special education teacher Gary Banfield.
At the Salem Church Library, the three plots have been maintained by a group of senior citizens and a group of youths who meet regularly at the library.
Stephen Kennon, who participates in the after-school program OurSpace, took home the famous cucumber. He planned to share it with his mother.
Stephen, 18, loves to toil in the library’s garden.
“You get to see the plants grow,” he said, holding the fat cucumber. “This started off as a little seed and now it’s here.”
Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973 firstname.lastname@example.org
WANT TO HELP?
You can donate goods from your garden on Saturdays at Spotsylvania Farmers Market off of Gordon Road and State Route 3. Donations will be given to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.