August Toolshed: Tips for Garden Leaders

Share Your Bounty

By Libby Weiland, Statewide Network Coordinator

Although this year’s harvests are coming a little later in most Vermont gardens, the time of abundance is just around the bend. What better way to celebrate your piles of tomatoes and zucchini than to share the bounty!  Whether it’s swapping plentiful veggies with fellow gardeners, sharing tasty treats with neighbors and friends, or giving a portion of your produce to a local food shelf or community kitchen, sharing the harvest benefits everyone.

  • Donate to Your Local Hunger Relief Organization. Encourage gardeners to share their extra produce by providing contact info, address, and hours for the local food shelf or other hunger-relief agency. To locate a site near you, check out Vermont Foodbank’s map of Vermont food shelves and meal sites or Ample Harvest’s donation site map at http://www.ampleharvest.org. Some gardens make this a more coordinated effort, with a “donation day” when gardeners meet at a given time to harvest extra produce, and have a rotating schedule for delivery of the donation. However you coordinate the effort, talk with the donation site coordinator to ask if they accept fresh garden produce, what kinds of produce they need the most, and what the best days and times are for produce drop off. For more info on organizing produce donation at your community garden check out this past Toolshed Tip.
  • Host a Community Potluck. Have a regular day of the month that gardeners and other community members come together to share a meal. Gardeners can be encouraged to not only come with a dish prepared with garden produce, but bring extra veggies to swap with their neighbors (the tomato guy swaps with the zucchini kids).
  • Preserve the Harvest. Some of your gardeners may already know how to deal with a big harvest by spending late summer and early fall in their kitchens drying, freezing, and canning. These gardeners, or others in your community with similar knowledge, are incredible resources this time of the season. If possible, provide a variety of opportunities for gardeners to learn–while some gardeners will be ready for an in-depth canning lesson, others may be more comfortable with some basic freezing and storage tips. These workshops can also double as group preserving sessions. Products made can be sold as garden donation items or given as thank you gifts to volunteers and other supporters.
  • Share Recipes. Sometimes the issue is that there’s a lot of food; other times people just might not know what to do with it. Post or email recipes and tips for cooking up the highly productive crops, such as “20 ways to dress up a tomato.” Put a recipe binder in the tool shed and encourage gardeners to add their favorite recipes. For those who may not be as comfortable in the kitchen, consider putting on cooking demos with taste tests at the garden or a nearby community space. Check out this past Toolshed Tip on Cooking in the Garden for more ideas around cooking outside with garden produce.
  • Get Creative! Even though your focus is on food to eat, there are always those vegetables that get beyond you, turning giant and inedible. Veggies that have grown beyond their days as tasty food can still be used for fun games and craft activities. Try a game of zucchini whiffle ball, make cucumber beauty masks, create root vegetable carvings or stamps…inspiration awaits!