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Gardening

Alaska gardeners should resolve to plant a row for the hungry this year

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: December 31, 2020
  • Published December 31, 2020

(Getty Images)

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions. Today, however, I resolve to do more to get every gardener to plant a row in their garden to feed the hungry.

Some readers may remember when we started to “Plant a Row for Beans” here in Anchorage. Then the program caught the eyes and hearts of garden writer friends who promoted this simplest of ideas nationally. They — and their newspapers — got behind “PAR,” asking gardeners to plant a row and then get the produce to someone who needs it.

The program really took off. First of all, what gardener doesn’t like to share extra zucchinis or tomatoes? But it also worked because there were no real rules, no government administration, no required overseer or sponsor group. All it took was getting the word out, and regular gardeners like you and me were joined by community gardeners, botanical gardeners, prison gardeners, scouts, rehab centers, food banks and on and on. Millions of pounds of food were collected every year and still are today.

The problem, however, is that newspapers, magazines and garden columnists have disappeared at an alarming rate. Newspaper readership is way down since Plant A Row went national, and that means there are fewer who can annually promote the idea. Many new gardeners have swelled our ranks, but don’t know about Plant A Row, or that to give to a row to someone else must become the essence of home gardens. EVERY garden should have a row for the hungry.

If you don’t know about Plant A Row, just look it up on the internet to get an idea of its breadth and some of the programs gardeners just like you have developed. But take it from someone who has followed the numbers, this wonderful, impactful program needs some extra juice to meet the incredibly unfortunate high demand for food. I am hopeful you will join in my resolution.

Oddly enough, money is not the solution. All you have to do is include the concept of dedicating produce to help in your garden plans. I know I don’t have to convince any gardener of the need.

One row to simply feed someone that is in need. What could be more simple? Or such an easy way to help your fellow humans? If you want to go bigger, do something a bit more encompassing like starting a special Plant A Row group with friends or office mates. You can get help from GardenComm, the garden writers association — there are still some of us left! We maintain a website, gardencomm.org/PAR, which will give you all the information you need to start a Plant A Row program or committee. You are free to “steal” the logo — developed by Alaska’s own Tom Hoffman — and use it freely!

In addition, I beg you to reach out to all gardeners you know Outside to persuade them to join the effort to plant a row for the hungry in every garden. It is not a hard sell. Send them this column or direct them to the GardenComm website. There they can locate partners or and places in their area that accepts fresh produce.

Then stay on them. Get them to relay the message. You can remind them to act every time I remind you to plant a row for the hungry. And you can bet I will.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Didn’t get someone a present? Get them a membership in the Alaska Botanical Garden, alaskabg.org. Check out the membership benefits, the classes and the events out at The Garden. Quick, don’t miss the light display.

Christmas tree recycling: Whoopie! This program runs through Jan. 15. All Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer Carrs stores will have special areas to drop-off trees, but only if they are free of all decorations, lights and metal. No plastic bags. No wreaths, please! This is a great service, please do not abuse it. Full details at alparalaska.com. Thank you ALPAR in partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage Solid Waste Services and Carrs-Safeway.

Recycle Christmas string lights and bulbs, too: Free drop-off at the Anchorage Recycling Center, (6161 Rosewood) or Total Reclaim (12050 Industry Way No. 10).

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