SustainAbility: Backyard gardening

A sustainable community is one in which people are willing to reach out to each another and lend a helping hand.

Grow Another Row exemplifies this philosophy with a network of “backyard gardeners fighting hunger.”

This successful young project, just in its third season, already has garnered respect for distributing surplus produce to those in need through food banks and emergency food programs.

Founder and organizer Amanda McQuade explained Grow Another Row helps connect volunteers with growers and recipients. Volunteers then make arrangements to pick up the extra fruit and vegetables and deliver the bounty to specific programs. Once the system is in place, there is no need for micromanagement.

Food supplies, tailored to recipients’ needs, have been donated to Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, the Community Food Bank, Homeward Bound, Mesa County Supplemental Foods, The Salvation Army, the Senior Center, St. Benedict’s Place and the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies.

Last year, 18 volunteers redistributed more than three tons of fresh fruits and vegetables through the program.

So far this year, 23 growers plan on participating in Grow Another Row. This includes backyard gardeners, commercial growers, the Main Street Community Garden and the Colorado State University Agricultural Experiment Station.

McQuade is especially proud that the effort has retained growers and volunteers from year to year.

Last year, in spite of a poor growing season, there was more food available for harvest than there were volunteers to do the picking. The project teamed up with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Work-Ender program to help with harvesting.

Nicole Sizemore began working with Grow Another Row in 2009 as a driver. In spite of her “brown thumb,” she has become an essential part of the organization.

As a friendship blossomed between the two women, Nicole offered to apply her marketing skills to Grow Another Row, creating an attractive brochure and other print materials. The women have expanded outreach to include social media and participation in farmers markets and festivals.

Sizemore encouraged others to get involved saying, “This is a nice way to help out a lot with a little effort.”

Goals for this year include expanding the grower base to encompass Fruita and additional sites in Palisade. They also would like to become more ecofriendly and improve efficiency on routes by enlisting homeowner associations and developing more neighborhood and business pick-up locations.

Grow Another Row is not yet a 501 C (3) nonprofit but McQuade and Sizemore want to change that status. Nonprofit designation will provide liability protection and make donating easier.

Once again, the CSU Tri-River Area Extension office will serve as a drop-off location. You can take excess produce to the office at the fairgrounds before 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.

This project really has struck a chord in the Grand Valley as growers, volunteers and recipients create a circle.

There are several ways you can get involved. Grow Another Row is looking for volunteers willing to commit to regular routes for weekly pickups through the entire season.

People also are needed for one-time harvesting projects. McQuade encourages civic, political or religious groups and scout troops to volunteer for this task.

All you adventurous home gardeners remember to grow another row and share some of your bounty with hungry neighbors.

Find out how you can contribute to this creative project at http://www.growanotherrow.org or by calling McQuade at 314-7389.

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Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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