Help Your Garden Help Others: Donate Excess Produce Locally, with AmpleHarvest.org

July 29th, 2014

Backyard gardeners can help change this shocking number – click image for a running tab of the pounds of food wasted in the U.S. since the beginning of 2014.

How is it that one of out of every six Americans experience food insecurity when there is more than an adequate supply of food potentially available? A broken food system is big part of this issue and one of the many reasons I started the Intervale Center 30 years ago (more on that below.) 

According to both the National Resource Defense Council and the US Department of Agriculture, we throw away a pound of food per person per day in this country, or well over 100 billion pounds of food per year. Some estimate this to be more than enough to totally eliminate hunger in America. You can view a thought provoking image that gives a running tab on the 40% of food wasted since the beginning of 2014.  

Not included in these statistics is the volume of home-grown produce discarded by us, the more than 40 million gardeners across the U.S. Why do we it? Sometimes our plants produce far more fruits and vegetables than we could possibly use, preserve or give away. It is not uncommon for tomato plants to bear 20 to 40 or more fruit each, more than we can use. Many other crops, such as peppers, cucumbers, squash, citrus, apples and peaches, also produce abundant harvest.

And our neighbors and friends can only use so much. Until recently, it's been difficult to find food shelves that would accept fresh harvests due to space and refrigeration issues. But now, thanks to Gary Oppenheimer of AmpleHarvest.org, you can harvest your excess and get it into the hands of hungry children and adults who need it. 

The web site is free and easy to use. Enter your address or zip code, and AmpleHarvest.org generates a list of registered food pantries in your community. You’ll get an address and phone number, and often directions and additional information about what produce is most beneficial or when it can be accepted.

In just five years, AmpleHarvest.org has connected more than 40,000 backyard gardeners to their local food pantries. As a result, more than 21 million pounds of excess produce have been diverted from the compost pile—an amount of food that would fill 76 Olympic-size swimming pools!

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/GardenersSupply and learn instantly how you can donate your excess garden produce to the nearest food pantry. And please share this link on your social media and gardening friends.

As mentioned above, the Intervale Center, is now a national model for creating local food systems and also has a gleaning program that provides 5,000 pounds of food to our local Vermont area.

So gather up your produce, visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/GardenersSupply and put that delicious, fresh food to work eliminating hunger and improving health in your community.

 

 

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Gary Oppenheimer, founder of AmpleHarvest.org, has helped more than 40 million gardeners connect with their local food pantries to donate extra produce.  Currently, 6,930 food pantries across all 50 states are registered to receive a sustainable and recurring supply of freshly harvested,locally grown food (many for the first time) from area growers and gardeners – for free.

Legalized home marijuana gardening: What’s your opinion?

June 30th, 2014

What is by many accounts the hottest crop in home gardening today?

Hint #1:               It is not tomatoes.

Hint #2:               It is neither flower nor vegetable.  It is an herb.

Hint #3:               It is not a weed, but is often referred to as “weed.”

OK all you baby boomers, if you haven’t gotten it by now, you lose your AARP-BSC card (AARP But Still Cool).  If the marijuana legalization trend continues the hottest home gardening crop in the U.S. (both for indoor cultivation and outdoor growing) may quickly become marijuana.

At last count 22 States and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes, with most of those allowing homegrown plants with proper legal approval. Home gardening of marijuana for recreational purposes has been approved in two states – Colorado and Washington, and more are likely.

While there have always been companies selling lots of equipment to help gardeners grow crops “indoors,” not surprisingly this recent legalization has led to an explosion of interest in serving this “growing” market.  But individual views on the medical and recreational legalization of marijuana are still highly divided.  Among the many arguments for and against marijuana legalization, some believe legalized marijuana will provide needed medicine to many and boost tax coffers and the economy overall (as Colorado seems to be proving), while unburdening law enforcement, our court systems and our prisons. Others believe that marijuana is immoral, a danger to users, children and others, and a “gateway” to harder drug use.

But what do home gardeners think about this issue as we are interested in your perspective?  As a company, Gardener’s Supply takes pride in helping our customers become better gardeners and grow their best gardens ever. We help gardeners grow everything from astibles to zinnias, from Roma tomatoes to Jerusalem artichokes.  So, should we help our customers be successful at growing marijuana as we are getting more interest in our Vermont garden centers and from catalog and web customers across the US?  We’d like your opinion.  Would you please take this quick and anonymous survey?

Thank you!

Please also feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Send for your FREE SEED and begin your Milkweed Sanctuary (and food garden!) TODAY

June 2nd, 2014

                                                                         

Our First Steamed Milkweed Greens of the Year (like Spinach and Green Beans)

 What "weed" feeds Monarchs, bees and you? 

What is a weed?  When I was living in Scotland years ago a very savvy gardener told me weeds are simply good plants growing in the wrong place.  Of course the “wrong place” tends to be defined according to our goals, like food production, landscape beauty and pristine lawns.

Over time I have had to change my understanding of what’s a weed.  One chore I had growing up was plucking Dandelions from our lawn (my father would not use herbicides).  After marrying a wild foods forager I needed to reassess Dandelions as they are now our first steamed greens in spring, plus Lynette uses Dandelion root as one of 20 wild-crafted ingredients to make the most effective anti-cold and anti-flu remedy I know.

In the past decade I also learned to view common Milkweed differently.  Lynette loves Milkweed and it is allowed to thrive in our front garden amidst perennial ornamentals like lilies, peonies, grasses, balloon flowers and shrubs.  Unlike these cultivated garden plants our Milkweed is a “weed” in that it grows and reproduces aggressively, and can dominate a planted area.  It has become 10-20% of our garden plants. 

But this weed is uniquely important.  I wrote this piece last year about the importance of milkweed as a food source and breeding habitat for Monarch butterflies when I learned 90% fewer Monarchs made it from the US to Mexico to overwinter. I encouraged gardeners to help reverse this Monarch emergency:

“It starts with growing millions of milkweed plants.  This vibrant wildflower…is native to much of the US.  It is not only beautiful; it's essential to the life cycle of Monarch butterflies.  They sip the plentiful nectar; lay their eggs under the leaves, and then their fat striped caterpillars gobble the leaves (the only food that can sustain them).  No milkweed plants, no Monarch butterflies.”


Young Milkweed Flower Pods (Like Broccoli)

When we plant Milkweed it's blossoms will also help feed many other kinds of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds and honey bees.  But did you know Milkweed can also offer food for us from early spring through late summer?

Milkweed provides early greens; some describe the flavor as reminiscent of spinach, green beans and asparagus.  Milkweed’s new-growth shoots reach out of the soil when hardwood trees are leafing out.   At this stage they taste like asparagus. In mid-summer the unopened flower buds can be harvested and prepared like broccoli, which is what they taste like at that point.  After the flower pods whither each milkweed plant will produce 5-10 seedpods that grow up to 5 inches long.  Harvest the pods at under 1 inch in July-August and they can be prepared and eaten like okra.

We cook common milkweed by steaming or boiling it and we have not found it to be bitter as some foragers claim.  Any toxins in milkweed are washed out of the edible parts by gentle boiling.

So, this perennial weed grows easily and looks and tastes like spinach, green beans, asparagus, broccoli and okra.  Why not plant it to feed Monarchs AND yourself?

Lynette harvested several thousand Milkweed seeds last fall.  Let us know your address by clicking here and we will send some to you, with planting instructions and some recipe ideas, free of cost to help you HELP SAVE THE MONARCH.