Community Action working with families to grow own food at ‘garden of love’

Photos by Ginny Kropf: (Left) Nicole Targa waters some of the 500 cups of seedlings which were planted at Community Action with the help of staff and volunteers. (Right) Staff and volunteers at Community Action planted the raised beds in the agency’s back yard on Thursday morning. Melinda Daniels plants tomatoes which were grown from seeds that were donated for the project. When the vegetables are ready, families will be able to come help themselves to free produce.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 2 June 2023 at 9:00 am

ALBION – A new program underway at Community Action in Albion is intended to further the agency’s mission of “giving a hand up, rather than a handout.”

On Thursday morning, staff and volunteers began planting a community garden in the back yard by the canal.

The idea came about when director Renee Hungerford attended the first Stone Soup graduation, a program Hungerford developed to teach families how to prepare food.

“A woman approached me and said it would be nice if we could distribute seedlings so people like her homebound mother could plant some food,” Hungerford said.

From left, Jackie Dunham, chief operating officer at Community Action; director Renee Hungerford; and Jeff Atwell, energy auditor for the Weatherization Program, look over materials donated for their community garden.

Hungerford wrote to SowRight Seeds asking for a donation and they sent a ton of seeds, she said.

“We began offering seed packets to our clients and then started a wide variety in our office windows, so we could distribute growing plants at planting season,” Hungerford said.

She next wrote to Vego Garden to request raised beds. They offered six metal beds, but Hungerford asked for only three.

Next, they received a donation of fertilizer from Dunham Farms in Knowlesville. Another very generous donor provided the soil.

“Many hands of staff and volunteers went toward planting, watering and assembling,” Hungerford said. “This is not just a garden of produce, but truly a garden of love.”

Community Action has refrigerators for their food pantry behind their buildings, so when the plants start to produce, the vegetables can be picked and refrigerated for families to help themselves.

“We hope families will come out and weed and help care for the beds,” Hungerford said. “We hope it will be therapeutic for them.”

Jeff Atwell, Melinda Daniels and Jackie Dunham prepare the beds for planting a community garden in the back yard of Community Action on West State Street in Albion.