Growing your own food is pretty satisfying, isn’t it? There are few things that give me more pride than sitting down to a meal that has been grown in my backyard. One thing that comes close is sharing the abundant food we are able to produce on our 1/3 acre of land in the city.
If you’re our neighbor, you might find a bag of fresh greens, tomatoes, and other veggies on your stoop. We believe in sharing. We also believe that all people should have access to affordable, fresh produce – even if they don’t have a yard, or cannot afford or have the means to start and maintain a garden.
This year, John and I partnered with a local organization – Feed Iowa First – that provides fresh produce to over 20,000 food insecure citizens in our county. We are a grow site; we chose to till up two long strips in our front yard to grow green onions.
Why you should consider donating a portion of your garden produce back to your community:
- You can grow food in just about any place. While we do have a large backyard, we simply tilled up two one strips along our sidewalk to grow green onions.
- If you’re growing food for yourself, planning to donate extra produce simply means a few extra plants of the same variety that you’re already growing.
- Offering fresh produce to those who are food insecure will keep your community healthy.
- It’s a great way to know your neighbors and community members, and network with local influencers in your city.
- Depending on a partnership with a non-profit, a produce donation could be tax deductible.
- You are promoting food independence in your community.
Things you need to consider before growing:
1. Where can you donate this produce?
Not all food banks accept perishable food donations, which is really unfortunate. Other food banks accept produce donations, but only on certain days of the week. A simple phone call to your local food banks will help you determine where to take your produce.
Once you find an organization, stick with them for the entire season and reflect at the end of the year if you want to make a change.
2. What produce has the highest demand?
Most folks who are new to eating fresh produce are confident when they can cook with staples, like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions and potatoes.
3. Which is better: Quantity or Variety?
If you are growing food for an organization or food bank, determine if they would rather have a lot of a certain item, or a small quantity of a variety of items. If there are several of you donating to a food bank, it might be better for each donor to cover one item rather than donating a variety of produce.
4. Can you accept that you will be doing 99% of the work?
Accept that you will be doing nearly all of the work – the planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting – to get this donation into the hands of the needy in your community.
Garner donated seed or starts from greenhouses.
To keep your out of pocket costs down, talking with local greenhouses and seed companies about your objective might garner you some donated seedlings or seeds. You can also talk with your green thumb friends to see if they have extra seedlings.
For example, this year I started tomato seeds in my basement. I started 2 packets of seeds, and the germination rate was amazing! I had so many extra seedlings that I was able to give extras to friends and neighbors.
Churches are notorious for having an abundance of yard space.
Can you start a church garden with produce going back to the community or needy in the congregation? You don’t need to till up the whole church yard. Just a few raised beds can provide a ton of produce, especially if you are using the square foot gardening method.