Feed Thy Neighbor

  • Post published:06/10/2010
  • Post comments:5 Comments
Planting the Squash Patch at CFC

Ev Hatch, now retired from farming, is a member of the Hunger Task Force and a member of the First Congregational Church of Greenfield. When the First Church began planning a special day of service they called ‘Feet, Hands and Voices to Faith’ he knew just what to do.  He donated a half acre of his farmland, and his services to prepare the field. On May 16th he and a crew, that included Luella McLaughlin (aged 93), set off to plant summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and 350 tomatoes that will be donated to the Survival Center in Turners Falls as the harvest comes in.

Reverend Judith Kinley said her husband Don who loves to garden was part of that crew and he was amazed at Luella’s energy.

Hatch, who is familiar to many because his years working for Cooperative Extension and the 4-H, as well as because of Hatch’s Patch Strawberries, said that when he went out to till the field he remembered the aggravation that farming sometimes brought. “I’d barely started when a bearing on the tiller broke and I suddenly remembered that’s the thing I hated most. There was always something broken and you had figure out a fix, or find a new part.” He laughed and shook his head, but he has also promised to keep his eye on the field.

“I’ll putter around every morning for a couple of hours – before it gets hot. I’ve started to put in stakes for the tomatoes. The crunch will come with the harvest,” Hatch said.

Hatch told me that the Reverend Sue Bowman, another member of the congregation, “who really gets things going,” helped to organize this day of service.

When I spoke to the Reverend Kinley she said that after a short worship service the congregation split up to “live out our worship.” Everyone got to choose how to put their own interests and talents to work whether singing for nursing home residents, or putting their hands to any number of projects including working at the Survival Center in Turners Falls.

I am also a member of the Hunger Task Force. When I brought news of the Task Force to the Federated Church of Charlemont (CFC) last year the Reverend Cara Hochhalter agreed that we could plant a Squash Patch on the south eastern side of the church.  We had an adult work crew consisting of the Reverend Hochhalter and her husband Jeff, Erwin Reynolds who brought composted manure from his farm, Sheila Litchfield and me. We used the ‘lasagna method’ of putting in a new bed with  a cardboard and  woodchip mulch between the planting hills.

You may recall that last summer was quite cool and rainy.  Our harvest was modest, but went to the church’s Good Neighbor’s program.

This year, on Sunday, May 23rd, it was hot and the Sunday School gathered to plant squash seeds.  The bright sun gave us hope that there would be a greater harvest this year.

Reverend Hochhalter said “We believe there is abundance from God’s earth that has not been tapped to meet the needs of others.  This is just a small way that our church members can use a piece of our property to grow some food, our young people can plant seeds and join others to tend the patch, and then we share the produce through the Good Neighbors Food distribution program.  Some of the crop last year was shared through making squash soup and bread.  It is a wonderful whole-church effort that reminds us of the gifts of our earth and the joys of sharing with others.”

I want to remind every  one that any of us gardeners can plant our own extra row, or give any extra garden produce to the food pantry of our choice.

Local churches and other organizations recognize how these hard economic times make life difficult for many families and meet the need in numerous ways. But they also recognize that there is not only hunger of the body. People hunger for friendship and for feeling a part of the larger community. They hunger for hope and for celebration.

Free Harvest Meal 2009

That need is met in some measure by Community Dinners that are held throughout the area. The most celebratory of these dinners is the Annual Free Harvest Supper that will celebrate its 6th Anniversary this year.

The meal is absolutely free, but donations collected go to buy Farmer’s Market Coupons for low-income people. Last year $3000 was raised.

I attended last year for the first time and was moved and amazed by the bounty of our fields, the good will of farmers who donated produce, and the benevolence of the restaurateurs who cooked and prepared beautiful healthful dishes that were set before 600 hungry people who listened to good music and visited with old friends – or the new friends who sat beside them at long tables on the Green.

It is no surprise that it takes a many volunteers to put on a celebratory free meal. Every year a hundred or more people work that weekend to make it go smoothly and deliciously. But those volunteers depend on good planning beforehand.

Linda Slattery, Volunteer Coordinator, said that new members for the Organizing Committee are needed.  This committee meets about twice a month at Greenfields Market until the dinner on August 22. The first meeting is on June 9th from 6 to 7:30 pm. Email Linda at linslatt@comcast.net for more information.

Between the Rows   May 29, 2010

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Lisa at Greenbow

    What a great plan. I like the photo of the workers too. The young lady with the watering can is into her model pose. She could be modeling for Organic Gardening Magazine. 😉

  2. Pat

    Lisa – We got so busy planting the squash and ferrying water (no hose connection) that I forgot to take photos. Then I had to make the kids stay and ‘pose’. Mallory certainly had the right idea.

  3. Carol

    Pat, You always offer such wonderful posts about community! The larger community of Western Massachusetts is a varied and amazing one. I had intended to plant an extra row for our survival center but then got sick and still have not planted any veggies. I hope to later on. Great effort by your church community. I agree with Lisa about the photo! The Free Harvest Meal looks like a fabulous event. I learn so much about what is happening around the valley from your blog! I hope you have a great harvest this year. The rain we are getting will help!
    I would love to meet up with you sometime!! Liisa and I had just planned on visiting Smith Greenhouse together and then one thing led to another… I told both Jean and Liisa I wanted to call you, but when I got sick I just was not sure I could do our meet up at all. You would have been a delightful addition. If you send me a reg. email we could plan to meet? I could not find yours. ;>) Carol

  4. Kate

    Love this. I do the ‘plant an extra row’ thing and also volunteer to teach inner city container gardening. I really enjoy showing apartment dwellers how easy and fun it is to grow yummy veggies in very confined spaces.

  5. Pat

    Carol – I am so sorry that this has been such a difficult year for you. I am looking forward to meeting you any my email is simply commonweeder@gmail.com.
    Kate – Plant and Row and teaching. It is just like the old proverb – teach a man to fish and you feed him always.

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