Gardeners' dedication helps food bank thrive

Early in the new year, members of the Kiwanis Club of Olympia will begin making plans for the network of gardens they plant and harvest to help meet the fresh produce needs of the Thurston County Food Bank.

If their fruits of labor from 2010 are any indication, families in need will be well-served with fresh vegetables again next year.

The Olympia Kiwanis Food Bank gardens wrapped up the 2010 season by delivering more than 26,500 pounds of fresh, organic vegetables to the food bank system for distribution.

Despite the less than ideal weather this past growing season, the club topped its previous production record of about 24,000 pounds, set in 2009.

This worthwhile community service project grew by leaps and bounds in 2010, working with partners ranging from private landowners to the state Department of General Administration to prepare, plant and harvest new garden plots to provide nutritious food for food bank patrons.

Kiwanis Garden Committee co-chairmen Derek Valley and Don Leaf put a lot of time and effort into expanding the growing operations to include four major gardens and several, smaller private gardens.

They, along with countless club members and community volunteers, deserve a hearty thank-you for all of their hard work.

Anyone visiting the east Capitol Campus site this past summer was treated to the sight of vegetables growing in abandoned concrete planter boxes. This new Kiwanis Club garden, supported by the volunteer labor of state employees and other community members, contributed about 6,000 pounds of vegetables to the food bank.

Parties involved in the east Capitol Campus garden already have their sights set on expansion in 2011.

Other major garden expansions took place this year at Market Gardens Northwest Harvest on Friendly Grove Road and the Vista Village on Carpenter Road. The club’s West Olympia garden remained a mainstay of the program.

Club members also worked with Gov. Chris Gregoire to build a small potato patch outside the Governor’s Mansion, adding to the produce total.

The Kiwanis Club gardens produced 50 percent of the fresh produce available this summer and fall at the Thurston County Food Bank.

Look for more of the same in 2011 from this dedicated bunch of civic-minded gardeners.