IN BRIEF: Nothing says summer like the taste of sweet corn or a ripe tomato, still warm from the vine. But for families turning to food pantries to keep from going hungry, fresh fruits and vegetables are usually hard to come by - until now.
To date, the Master Gardeners with the Rockdale County Coopertive Extension Office have donated more than 1133 pounds of specially grown fresh produce to the Rockdale Emergency Relief food pantry, as part of the Plant a Row for the hungry program.
From the land space, donated by Dixie Graphics, to the equipment, time and labor from volunteers, the garden is a labor of love by the community to the community in Rockdale. The garden they till is no more than a quarter acre, converted from an old baseball field, and is worked by volunteer Master Gardeners and volunteers with Georgia Power.
"The fresh fruits and vegetables offer nutrients that are very very important," said RER Director Ashley Roesler. But produce is usually hard to come by at a food pantry, making these donations so treasured and crucial.
Butter beans, corn, okra, peas, tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon are all grown on the land, watered with an automatic irrigation system. Some crops are doing better than others. This is not the year for tomatoes or squashes, for example, said Gail Ward. But the eggplant has been plentiful, although food pantry recipients aren't always sure what to do with them.
"We've included some recipies to hand out" with the eggplant, said Ward.
The donated produce is taken up quickly by recipients, usually within the same day it arrives.
And the recipients are touched when they learn that this food was grown just for them, said Roesler.
The Master Gardeners are far from finished with the growing season. Plans are already underway for fall crops, such as root vegetables and leafy crops.