Help grow fresh food for the hungry!Some very generous supporters of the BMAC Food Bank have offered the use of their garden space on Cottonwood Rd. for the 2016 spring through fall. We are in search of a group or individual to "adopt" this garden space to grow nutritious food for distribution to those in need through the BMAC Food Bank.
This project would be ideal for a club, family, business, or other group committed to serving those in need in the Walla Walla community through ongoing community service.
Volunteer "adoptive parents" of this garden space would work together with BMAC Food Bank, Public Outreach staff, and volunteers to plan, prepare, plant, care for, harvest, and clean up the garden space for the 2016 garden season. BMAC will be there to support this project throughout the year with supplies, outreach, and limited financial support.
BACKGROUND:The BMAC food bank collects food in a large warehouse and works closely with 4 local food pantries (The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, The Pantry Shelf and Helpline), as well as some in Waitsburg, Dayton, Pomeroy, and Clarkston. These pantries don’t have room to store a large supply of food, so we store food on the warehouse shelves and in large walk-in fridges and freezers to help keep them fully stocked. Every week, we deliver food to these pantries, where people who are food-insecure can go pick up food. We work to keep these food pantries stocked with a variety of food so people in need have access to a nutritious diet.
The hardest part in doing this is making sure that we are giving the pantries enough whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and dairy, and not just packaged foods. It makes a huge difference in people’s nutrition when they have access to fresh whole foods.
Over the last 4 years, we have had different volunteer groups help us grow gardens specifically for these food pantries. In 2014, they started a garden in a donated space with the help of some volunteers. They grew over 1,000 pounds of tomatoes, squash, lettuce, peppers, tomatillos, pumpkins, and cucumbers, and just a few melons.
If your group is interested in this project, we could work together to build a similar garden. BMAC can provide some of the supplies, such as seeds, indoor planting containers to start seeds in, shovels and rakes. We may also be able to access irrigation supplies to create an efficient watering method.
We can also help by offering advice on how to make a volunteer-run garden work based on our experience. Some of that advice is below in the form of a “Food Bank Garden Outline,” and we can continue to offer advice and other resources as the summer progresses.
Finally, we have a partnership with a Whitman College group called the Whitman Glean Team, who could help out during harvest time to collect the produce and deliver it to the food bank.
The results of this project, if you are able to take it on, would be that food insecure people in our community—that is, people who may not know from one day to the next whether they will be able to afford to feed their family—can rely on a steady flow of nutritious, fresh, local fruits and vegetables to ensure their families are well-fed. Their access to the produce from your garden will help make sure that children are growing properly and able to focus better in school, and that children and adults both have a chance to be healthy and avoid health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health concerns that have been connected to eating highly processed foods instead of fresh whole ingredients.
2. Determine what to grow:
-Go to http://extension.wsu.edu/wallawalla/wp-content/uploads/sites/26/2013/07/INW-Vegetable-Gardening.pdf for tips on what vegetables grow well in this area, what soil type they need, how to maximize your garden space, and what time of year they need to be planted and harvested.
-Consider the time-frame – many vegetables will grow well into the fall, as late as November, so choose vegetables that fit within your timeline.
-We have many seeds available, and have had a lot of luck in getting seeds donated from the Master Gardeners and seed suppliers.
3. Determine how you want to start (from seed, indoors, from starts)
-If you choose start the seeds now indoors (we have egg cartons as well as indoor planting trays to help you get started) or sow directly in the soil. Some vegetables do very well to be started in late winter/early spring and then be transplanted, while others do not do well when transplanted.
-If you choose to start the seeds outdoors, be sure to take into consideration how long seeds take to reach full maturity and whether our growing season is long enough, as well as when you will need to sow the seeds.
-If you choose to use starts grown from someone else, start looking now for a donor to offer these starts to you for free or at a discount.
4. Prepare your garden plot.
- There are many ways to prepare a garden for planting. You may need to till, add nutrient-rich compost or fertilizer, and/or put down straw or another type of mulch to slow weed growth. If you need help getting access to these supplies and/or finding someone to help till, give us a call!
-Determine the layout of your garden to maximize space. Consider “companion plants” that help each other grow well, such as basil with tomatoes, marigolds to control pest problems, and other combinations that grow well when planted together.
5. Schedule volunteers
-You will need a lot of volunteers at the beginning to help prepare the plot and plant.
-You will need a steady schedule of volunteers to keep up with watering and weeding the garden throughout the summer. I found the easiest way to manage this was to assign each day of the week to one person, and count on them to always go water on that day of the week.
-If weeds become an issue, consider throwing a “garden party” to get a large number of volunteers out at once to tackle weeds.
-Be sure to have a sign-in sheet for volunteers to log the time they spend in the garden, note what they did and leave any notes for the other volunteers to see.
6. Utilize resources!
-WWU Extension Master Gardeners are a valuable resource. They are experienced gardeners and they are required to do community service.