JFS Perspectives

Monday, March 06, 2017

Donor Spotlight: Community Gardeners



Donor Spotlight: Community Gardeners

At JFS, we are dedicated to offering more fresh options to the 1,000 clients who use the Weinberg Food Pantry every month. What’s better than fresh produce? Locally grown fruits and vegetables!

Did you know we receive produce donations from local farms, community gardens, and neighbors each summer? And we need more backyard gardeners to join them!

We hope this article plants a seed and that after you learn a bit about each of these donors, you will be inspired to dig deep and give produce this spring and summer—whether you already have a garden, start one, or join a community plot.

Ekar Farm

Ekar Farm - photo by Aaron NeyEkar Farm is an urban farm in southeast Denver dedicated to educating the community about sustainable agriculture practices and food justice, and to donating fresh, healthy organic produce to local food pantries. JFS received Ekar’s first harvest ever in 2009, and half of it every year since. In total, the farm has donated 35,000 pounds of fresh produce to our food pantry!

Executive Director Aaron Ney says, “Ekar is very proud to include the JFS food pantry as one of our distribution partners. We know the fresh vegetables we grow are appreciated and provided to our neighbors in need with dignity. We feel JFS shares our belief that healthy, nutritious, fresh vegetables should be available to everyone.”

He adds, “Every single volunteer who comes to the farm either already knows of our relationship with JFS or hears about it while at the farm. The hard work done at the farm—the spreading of compost, the planting of seeds, the weeding and tending, and all the magnificent harvesting is done by the community with intention (kavanah) and awareness of hunger and malnutrition. The thousands of people who come to Ekar each season are enthusiastic about providing food for the Weinberg Food Pantry.”

You can get involved at the farm by:

  • Attending “Days in the Dirt,” offered each Sunday morning, June 4 to October 1. Stop by for an hour or two to help with planting, tending, and harvesting.
  • Getting a plot at Ekar’s community garden—you’ll grow enough vegetables for yourself and to donate to those in need. It’s a great family experience. Aaron says, “Getting dirty together and bringing forth food is deeply spiritual, transformative, and healthy!”

Learn more at ekarfarm.org.

Samuels Community Garden

Samuels students harvesting fruit for the food pantryIn partnership with Denver Urban Gardens, Samuels Elementary School started a community garden in 2012. About one-third is dedicated to the school to provide fresh produce for the cafeteria and the rest is set aside for community plots.

In 2014, Kristy Sawyer, one of the garden’s cofounders, had the idea to donate produce from the school’s plot to the Weinberg Food Pantry at JFS when the school is closed during the summer. She quickly got other parents on board and they started gathering every Monday night (in the summer) to harvest the garden and then socialize and share dinner. “It has become something that we all look forward to,” says Pallas Quist, garden leader and cofounder. “Not only does it feel great to harvest produce for people in need, but it also builds community for Samuels’ families and neighbors.”

Pallas explains that they harvest produce from the school garden and ask all the gardeners to consider donating from their personal plots, which many do. While none of the families are professional gardeners, they are learning more about gardening each year and getting more efficient with how they harvest. The amount they have given to JFS consistently increases; they contributed about 160 pounds the first summer and 440 pounds last year!

As our neighbor down the street, Samuels Elementary has a longstanding, close relationship with JFS. One of our KidSuccess therapists works in the school, and families have turned to JFS on many occasions for help with a financial or emotional crisis. “We’re all so happy about the partnership with JFS and grateful for all the agency does for our community,” says Pallas. “Donating produce from our garden is a meaningful way for us to give back.”

For more information about the Samuels Community Garden or to get involved, “like” their Facebook page or send an email. The Monday night garden socials are open to the public.

Anonymous Backyard Gardeners

We have several humble backyard gardeners who don’t want public recognition. One donor dropped off crops weekly last summer, totaling 365 pounds from June to October! He does not contribute money to JFS and says, “This is our way to be able to give back to our community.”

Another community member started a garden last summer and brought in small amounts of produce to the pantry. “I am just getting my feet wet and was pleasantly surprised my garden yielded more than I was expecting,” she says. “My family can’t possibly eat it all and sharing it with those in need is so rewarding! I highly encourage other gardeners to join me—no matter the amount you contribute.”

We Want Your Produce!

If you don’t have a green thumb, please continue to donate canned foods and other nonperishable items to the pantry. Those contributions help us leverage our dollars to purchase more fresh foods. If you have questions about what to donate, check out our Top 10 Needs,or contact Shelly Hines, Family Safety Net director, at 720.248.4654.

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