UNITY, Maine — Area gardeners and farmers know that it was a great growing season in Maine — but producing 15,088 pounds of produce on about an acre and donating it to area food pantries and to other hungry people?
That’s really something to celebrate, according to Sara Trunzo of Veggies for All, a 3-year-old project of the local nonprofit, the Unity Barn Raisers.
Veggies for All recently moved to Unity College, and that new partnership has really allowed the garden project to be such a success, Trunzo said this week. The summer’s harvest produced more food than in the other years combined.
“Veggies for All needed to set roots down somewhere,” she said. “This year it just all came together. We really can do so much more together.”
The project’s produce will be showcased at Saturday’s Local Harvest supper, held at the Unity Community Center and featuring uniquely local food and a pie contest.
“It’s a great event,” said Tess Fairbanks Woods, executive director of the Unity Barn Raisers. “Everyone’s welcome.”
This summer Veggies for All tended its potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, squash and other crops at garden plots at Unity College, in private gardens around town and in neighboring Troy. Volunteers logged 300 hours planting, tending and harvesting the produce, Trunzo said.
Of the more than 15,000 pounds of mostly storage crops, about 10,000 pounds were given to the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry in Unity, a nonprofit organization that serves 11 towns in northern Waldo County.
The project also donated produce to the Belfast Soup Kitchen, Loving Caring Hands in Fairfield, Loaves and Fishes in Albion and the Brewer Food Pantry, Trunzo said.
“We’ve been able to share the wealth this season,” she said.
The storage crops they primarily grew were chosen with the help of the local food pantry, but volunteers also grew some summer crops such as watermelons, sweet corn, green beans, peppers and cucumbers to give those in need a chance to enjoy a taste of something seasonal.
“It’s such a shame for somebody living in this agriculturally rich area to go through a summer without eating something like a watermelon off the vine,” Trunzo said.
Some of the volunteers who tended the gardens were the same people who later enjoyed the fruits of the labor, she said. Most of those served through the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry are senior citizens and children, who also are populations at risk for having poor health if they do not have access to enough nutritious food, according to Trunzo.
“Folks who need food can be a part of what it’s like to grow food,” she said.
For Fairbanks Woods, another important part of the work of Veggies for All is that many of the gardens are grown on farmland that has been dormant, thanks to a usage agreement with the landowners.
“It’s cool in that it’s growing food. It’s also cool in that it’s reclaiming farmland,” she said. “I personally feel that [Veggies for All] is life-changing. It’s not only adding nutritional value to families that rely on food relief, it’s also bringing back the family dinner, meal planning, working together and sharing meals.”
The Volunteer Regional Food Pantry is held from 7 to 8:30 a.m. the third Saturday of each month at the old fire station at 180 Depot St., Unity. The Local Harvest Supper will be held 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Unity Community Center, 32 School St. Tickets are $8 adult; $4 children under 12, seniors over 60 and folks who qualify as low-income. For information, visit www.unitybarnraisers.org.