Ready, set, grow. More than a dozen volunteers got their hands dirty Monday evening, May 5, to plant the first vegetables of the season for Church Community Services’ Seed to Feed program.
Entering its third year, Seed to Feed includes 10 gardens in all corners of Elkhart County. With six gardens last year, the program provided more than 150,000 pounds of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat that were distributed through the Food Bank of Elkhart County. This year, organizers hope to give out 200,000 pounds of produce and protein.
“The food bank at Church Community Services is servicing 69 hot meals sites and food pantries in the area, so the need is pretty large,” Seed to Feed co-coordinator Dave Hochstetler.
Volunteers planted the first seeds of the year at River Oaks Community Church on C.R. 115 just outside Elkhart.
“That garden had the most produce last year with a little more than 13,000 pounds of fresh vegetables,” Hochstetler said. “We’re hoping for 20,000 this year. Of course, that will depend on the weather.”
Volunteers planted a little bit of everything Monday evening – onions, beets, turnips, peppers, radishes, carrots and cabbage. Rows of radishes and mustard greens were planted in an area for children dubbed the Kids Patch.
Elkhart mom Jennifer Gorsuch brought along her two sons, 7-year-old Owen and 3-year-old Will.
“I think it’s going to be really good for them to realize the importance of helping others and we talked about that on the way over here,” she said.
Cindy Overholser, of Bristol, helped harvest vegetables last year and liked it so much that she decided to volunteer again.
“Church Community Services is an organization that I believe in and support, and I know people that volunteer their time there and work there,” she said.
Hochstetler said word about Seed to Feed has spread throughout the community and beyond since it began three years ago.
“As more people hear about the program, they continue to step up either to volunteer at the gardens, they donate fertilizer or diesel fuel or advertising or whatever,” he said. “A good example of that is Goldenrod Gardens. They heard about our program and asked if they could raise some of the seedlings for us to start out garden.”
The community’s generosity does not surprise Hochstetler.
“In Elkhart County, we call it the county with a heart,” he said. “It’s always had the mentality of giving, and Elkhart County is one of the largest counties as far as farms go, and I think the farming community has a heart for this type of program.”
Hochstetler said Seed to Feed is looking for farmers who would like to donate livestock or the proceeds from cash crops to the program. For more information call Hochstetler or Seed to Feed co-coordinator Katie Jantzen at 574-295-3673.