It’s March, and local gardeners are getting itchy to get their hands in the soil.
The Thurston County Food Bank took advantage of that feeling last week when it hosted local farmers and gardeners at its annual Growers Meeting.
While attendees had fun opportunities to swap gardening tips with a local expert, grab free veggie seeds for their gardens, and enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres, the focus of the meeting was on the produce needs of the Food Bank and how local farmers and volunteers can best support those needs.
“We are very fortunate that there are several local organizations that plant gardens especially for donation to us.” Thurston County Food Bank Operations Manager Heather Sundean told The Olympian.
Among those efforts are the Olympia Kiwanis food bank gardens, the Horticulture Program at the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, the state Department of Ecology food bank garden, GRuB’s food bank growing program, the Thurston County Juvenile Detention Center Garden, and the DuPont Community Garden.
The Olympia Kiwanis Club alone manages three food bank gardens throughout Olympia that provide approximately 30,000 pounds of produce to the Thurston County Food Bank.
With such an large amount of food coming from just one of a long list of contributors, events like the Grower’s Meeting offer an important opportunity for collaboration.
“We coordinate with the food bank in order to make our efforts more compatible with their efforts to serve the community.” said Don Leaf, chairman of the Olympia Kiwanis food bank gardens project.
Although all food donations are welcome and accepted, organization amongst contributors ensures that the food bank receives a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
“Because it is easy to grow, we receive an overabundance of zucchini and summer squash each summer,” Sundean said. “Therefore, we advise food bank gardeners to plant other crops that we see less of, such as broccoli, radishes, and carrots.”
Even with the outstanding support Thurston County Food Bank receives, Sundean said the need for fresh, healthy food grows ever greater each year and the food bank is always seeking community partners who want to contribute produce either by growing it or organizing volunteers to go out and glean it from local farms.
“Local gardeners and farmers do care about our community,” Leaf said. “Our gardens are successful because of community help.”
The Thurston County Food Bank and Olympia Kiwanis encourage community members to get involved in any way they can, even if they don’t think they have a green thumb.
“Volunteer! We are a volunteer-run organization and are always in need of more helpers to support our programs,” Sundean said.