A slightly different post here. Everyone’s heard of the unavailability of fresh foods in urban areas, and of projects to change that. But fresh food isn’t necessarily available for the rural poor, either. Not only that, but I was flabbergasted to learn that many people wouldn’t even know what to do with fresh food if they had it.
That’s where my awesome sister-in-law and two other ladies come in. Please read, donate if you can (anything helps) and share this post.
So here’s the article Christina wrote on Facebook:
Hello friends! Some of you may know about my garden project withSuzanne Collins (from the Hamilton Food Cupboard) and Kerri Hudson. I will tell you a little of the project’s history and where we are now with meeting our goals; then, I’ll get to the important part (I’m going to be asking you for money).
Last summer I was working on a campaign to change the ordinance in the Village of Hamilton to allow residents to keep a small number of hens. Ultimately the village board did not share my enthusiasm for chicken keeping. However, during my research to find wonderful and compelling reasons to keep hens I came across a variety of information about self-sustainability.
One topic of particular was the Victory Gardens of WWII. In short, the war effort put a tremendous strain on the countries resources. Programs, such as the Victory Gardens, were developed to encourage those who could to garden and to raise hens in order to provide produce and eggs for their families. This allowed more industrial agricultural efforts to be directed to the war effort.
I wondered if such a program would have benefit outside of a war effort. In particular, I tried to learn if there are barriers to accessing nutritious food for many of the people in Madison County. On November 19, 2015 I met Suzanne Collins who was speaking at a forum on Poverty in Madison Country. At this forum I listened to her speak about the struggle to feed families in need. Suzanne spoke – in her capacity as the director of the Hamilton Food Cupboard – about how many families rely on the Food Cupboard to supplement their food needs to survive. Suzanne, taught me several things:
• Lack of transportation limits many families access to the Food Cupboard.
• There is a hesitation to try fresh produce due to lack of exposure to it. Families often lack knowledge of how to prepare it.
• Fresh produce is considered a luxury item. When financial resources are scarce, families are more likely to go for items that will not spoil such as canned and processed food.
• Most importantly, people are willing to use fresh produce if familiarized with it. Suzanne spoke of her experiences of taking the time to explain how to cook and prepare items, such as squash, to people who have never purchased or prepared it. She helped people grow simple garden items like tomatoes using techniques such as planting tomato plants in bags of garden soil.
Suzanne’s talk inspired me enough to reach out with her and collaborate on a new project to help families in Madison County. I knew whatever we did it was going to have to meet the challenges that I learned about:
• Transportation-we have to find a way to bring the food to people.
• Education-we have to find a way to teach others the basics on where fresh fruits and vegetables come from. We also have to teach them how to prepare fresh produce since many of the families had never had any contact with unprocessed produce.
To combat the transportation issue, I presented Suzanne with the idea of bringing produce to families instead of expecting families to find produce. In order to reach the most people to do the most good, we decided to start a community garden next to the mobile home park on Route 12 –next to Price Chopper. After several meetings with the mobile home park owner and a nearby land owner, we have been allowed access to an amazing piece of land to start this garden.
Even at this very early stage, we have had a lot of positive feedback from the residents at the mobile home park. We also hope to include the experience of other community groups who participate in community gardens as well.
In addition to teaching gardening skills, we also plan to teach cooking classes on site. I basically have a mobile kitchen from my farmer’s market stand (sorry y’all no fried green tomatoes this year); we can easily have on-site cooking demonstrations.
Our beginning plans for the vegetable garden includes asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onions, parsnips, potatoes, peas, peppers, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. We also hope to have a pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe.
To increase food yield, in addition to the gardens, we will plant edible landscaping throughout the mobile home park. Plants such as apple trees, pear trees, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, cherry trees, and grapes will provide beauty and nutrition to the residents.
We have some long term goals as well. For 2016 we hope to establish the garden and landscaping and teach the basics of gardening skills. In 2017 our goal is to teach skills such as canning and long term food storage.
If these two goals are successful, and if there is interest in the community, in 2018 we are looking to introduce a chicken coop for egg production. The goal is to both provide residents with an affordable and local source of protein as well as the option of selling surplus eggs (and possibly produce) at the local farmer’s markets. At the end of three years we hope to have a community that is empowered to feed themselves while helping supplement their income.
In order for this project to continue, we need to raise money to purchase the supplies needed to build the garden. This includes the plants, garden tools, and materials. If you would like to support our efforts you can mail a check for whatever amount you wish to the Hamilton Food Cupboard and please write “Access Planted” in the memo line. If you are local and wish to volunteer or donate items, please private message me.
Christina LaValley, Suzanne Collins, & Kerri Hudson
Hamilton Food Cupboard
1 Mill Street
Hamilton, NY 13346
Now click here to donate.