Snoopy asked the question, “Is there any reason why mealtime should not be a joyous occasion?”
In our family we have always welcomed the chance for joy three times a day, but in recently mealtime has been an anxious time for many people across the country.
There have been a number of local responses to the plight of families who have been affected by the economic downturn. The Belly Bus showed up on the Greenfield Common last week and collected over 4,000 pounds of non-perishables for area food pantries and meal sites. This is more than 1,000 pounds more than last year which is fortunate because the need is even greater this year.
On Sunday the Ninth Annual Free Harvest Supper was a glorious celebration of the wonderful food grown on local farms, not to mention the talents of cooks from local restaurants.
I had never attended one of the Harvest Suppers and I was moved by every kind of generous gift given to the community that afternoon. First the gifts of produce, vegetables and fruits, grown by local farmers who have not had an easy season themselves with so much cool weather and so much rain.
The cooks all donated their time and talent to do wonderful things with the fresh produce. No one who passed through those long tables of salads could possibly think that that vegetarians suffer a boring and limited diet.
There was music all afternoon provided by Pat and Tex LaMountain, and John Currie to magnify the festive air.
While I stood in line volunteers came along offering all of us snacks of El Jardin bread, sliced plums and peaches, bits of cheese, and juicy tomatoes. I might as well have been at the most elegant of parties, every sense catered to.
And who did it? Volunteers who have given a huge amount of their time and labor to organize and pull off a spectacular event. The Harvest Supper grew out of an idea that Juanita Nelson had – and it has borne beautiful fruit.
It seemed everyone was there, so many people I knew, and friends I hadn’t met before were ready to make room for me at the table and include me in the conversation. We all need to eat, but it is being able to share a meal that is the joy.
People who couldn’t attend the Harvest Supper will also benefit from the generosity of all those volunteers and eaters. Nearly three thousand dollars was collected through the raffle and donations for the Greenfield Farmers Market Coupon Program which makes it possible for recipients to buy fresh produce at the GFM, and support our local farmers at the same time. Coupons are distributed to low income families through the Center for Self Reliance, Greenfield’s Emergency Food Pantry on Osgood Street. In 2008 over 450 families took advantage of this program.
Sharing is what gardeners are all about. Gardeners share plants, seeds, tips and encouragement. We also share the harvest. We have all been the happy recipients of extra tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, and even zucchini, from gardening neighbors. I want to let gardeners know that they can also share their extra harvest with those who most need it.
As a member of the Community Action’s Hunger Task Force I helped set up a website, www.plantarowwmass.blogspot.com that lists all the local food pantries and meal sites who are accepting extra produce from our gardens.
The Plant a Row program is a national project of the Garden Writers Association. Since 1995 garden writers have worked in their communities encouraging people to plant a little extra in their gardens in the spring, and to share any extra produce with food agencies. Over the years their communities have collected over 14 million pounds of produce for distribution. Fresh healthy produce is the most difficult thing for food pantries to provide because of the expense and the fragility of the food. The Plant a Row program is another way that gardeners have been able to show their generosity.
As gardeners we always have an excuse – I mean reason – for why things didn’t go as well as we planned and expected. The weather was too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, the slugs were rampant, or the deer were hungry. Sometimes the weather in our life is bad and we need a little help to make it through to the next planting season.
We gardeners have ways to soften the effects of stormy weather for our neighbors, and put a little joy on their tables. We can do it.
Just a reminder that next Saturday, August 29 I’ll be at the Energy Park with members of the Greenfield Garden Club for the judging of the Annual Sunflower Contest. There are five categories, tallest, most flowers on a single stem, heaviest blossom, largest blossom and most beautiful arrangement. The arrangement should be mostly sunflowers. There will be two classes: those 16 and older, and those 15 and under.
There will be ribbons and bragging rights, of course, but 10 first prize winners will also get a bag of apples from local orchards, Apex, Clarkdale, E&J Scott, Pine Hill, and Hager’s Farm Stand. Each contestant will also get his or her photo in The Recorder.
Bring your sunflower to the Energy Park between noon and 2 pm. Prizes will be awarded when the judging is complete.
See you there.
August 22, 2009 Between the Rows