Cooperative Extension Charitable Garden Program Doubled 2010 Harvest | Health

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Cooperative Extension Charitable Garden Program Doubled 2010 Harvest

SOUTH PARIS - The numbers are in and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's Maine Harvest for Hunger Program this year surpassed by more than 56.3 tons -- or 112,687 pounds -- the 87,319 pounds of fresh garden produce donated to charity last year by volunteer gardeners around the state.

Volunteer gardeners in 13 counties this year donated 200,006 pounds, or 100 tons, of vegetables and fruit, which included nearly 9 tons of potatoes, to food pantries, shelters and charitable organizations around the state, according to a jubilant Extension educator Barbara Murphy in the South Paris Oxford County office. Murphy oversees the program, renamed this year from "Plant-A-Row for the Hungry" to "Maine Harvest for the Hungry."

That's 112,687 pounds more than the 2010 goal of 125,000 pounds of fresh produce.

“Extension volunteers, with the support of Extension employees, produce and gather fresh fruit and vegetables for distribution to 45 Maine food pantries and soup kitchens,” Murphy says. "We asked for an extra effort this year to attempt to meet the growing need, and our volunteer gardeners really came through. We couldn't be more excited."

The Maine Harvest for Hunger program engages nearly 200 highly committed Master Gardener volunteers across the state in growing, gleaning and distributing food for Maine residents with limited finances or resources to buy fresh produce.

Murphy has worked to raise awareness of the opportunity for backyard gardeners and others to "plant an extra row" to donate to one of many drop-off locations in Maine. She says the program is growing, but needs to grow more.

"Local farmers are critical to the effort and donate thousands of pounds to the project," Murphy says.

Donated fruits and vegetables increase in volume each year, as does the number of gardeners participating in the program. So, too, Murphy says, does the need. Since 2000, volunteers have now raised, gathered and donated almost 452 tons of fresh produce to the Extension charitable gardening program.

Participating counties producing the most produce for the program this year are listed in order of the largest contributors listed first: York, Kennebec, Oxford, Knox, Penobscot, Cumberland, Waldo, Franklin, Lincoln, Somerset, Androscoggin, and Piscataquis.

For information and details on future participation, Murphy can be reached by email at Barbara.murphy@maine.edu or by telephone at 1-800-287-1482 in Maine.

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