Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region

 

Plant a Row for the Hungry. USFWS photoAn estimated 30 million Americans, including elderly people and children, go to bed hungry each night, or not knowing when their next meal will be. Plant A Row for the Hungry is a national, people-helping-people campaign launched by the Garden Writers Association of America in 1995.

The idea is simple: most gardeners harvest more than they consume. Through Plant A Row for the Hungry, gardeners contribute produce or plant an extra row. The produce is then donated to local organizations that distribute the food.

In 1998 ,Fred Pinkney, environmental contaminants biologist (and all-around good guy) heard about this program. He proposed replacing some unused turf at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office grounds with a vegetable garden. Field office staff volunteer to plant and care for the garden during their lunch break and after hours.

Over the past 10 years, our garden has produced 3,000 pounds of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and melons. This produce is donated to our local food bank and homeless shelter.

Here is what the local paper had to say about our efforts:

Volunteers lend green thumbs to worthy cause

By MAGAN CRANE, Staff Writer

Very carefully, Fred Pinkney lifted the plant's leaves, revealing just what he was looking for, a large, shiny, green cucumber. He brushed off his trophy and tossed it into a basket for eventual use in a salad. But this vegetable will not grace Mr. Pinkney's plate.

Mr. Pinkney and his coworkers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Annapolis have planted this garden for charity. "We've had a lot of success with it," he said. "And it has been a lot of fun to monitor the progress and see the results." And they have seen lots of results., So far this season the group has donated almost 200 pounds of food to local shelters and food banks, and the bounty continues.

Mr. Pinkney had been "longingly" eyeing a patch of grass near his office on Admiral Cochrane Drive when he stumbled upon the national Plant a Row for the Hungry program. The program encourages gardeners to plant an extra row of fruits and vegetables and donate the surplus to charity.

"I found about 10 people who had interest in working together," he said. "And between us we had almost everything we needed. People brought in extra plants and equipment and we had a soil scientist who works here, so we found out what the soil needs." Before work and on their lunch hours, a number of Fish and Wildlife employees have been planting, weeding and now harvesting the tomatoes. peppers, cucumbers, and “mystery squash" that have flourished on the small plot.
They pooled together small contributions to come up with the $150 needed for compost, fertilizer and a fence to fight off rabbits.

"Fred was really excited at first, thinking we had to have the biggest vegetables of all," graphic artist Laurie Hewitt said laughing. "We had the hardest time convincing him that people want little cucumbers and not these big, massive things."

Mr. Pinkney said the exercise has also served as a new and creative way to build a sense of community at work. "Everyone is always talking about team building," he said. "This has really been a good experience. I've talked to people in the office I would never have talked to."

Ms. Hewitt agreed, saying it has created a real connection to the community at large.
"It’s rewarding to contribute to the community," she said. "It's a real tangible measurement of doing something. We're not just sending money off somewhere, we're actually picking up 38 pounds of food and handing it over."

If you're interested in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program, visit their website.

CBFO biologists work in the PAR garden. USFWS photo.

 

Last updated: January 6, 2011