Tag Archives: gardening

In Minnesota, this is the time of year where home gardeners are harvesting their bounty and cooking or preserving their harvest in canning jars.  Today’s organization is working to encourage growers not to allow their harvest to go to waste.

Shortly after Gary Oppenheimer became the director of the Sustainable West Milford Community Garden in late 2008, he learned that some of their garden plot holders left large amounts of their garden unharvested when their crops produced more than they could possibly use.  Gary was aware that hunger was a problem in his community so he suggested that they create a committee to help gather the extra harvest and deliver it to local food pantries.  The program was named Ample Harvest West Milford.

Food pantries are hard to find because many operate without an Internet site or yellow pages listing.  Even Google doesn’t provide an answer since it can only list those pantries it knows of.  This challenge is shared by backyard gardeners throughout the United States who wish to share their excess bounty.

To address this dilemma, Gary created the Campaign, new supply side channel in our national food network that educates, encourages and enables gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry. gives food pantries the opportunity to register themselves in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners and other donors can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.

The organization’s mission is to move information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America by educating, encouraging, and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community rather than letting it rot in their garden.  Their “No Food Left Behind” goal is being spread via a virtual solution to hunger.  Today nearly 6,400 food pantries from 50 states are registered in the database.  This allows the 40+ million Americans with home gardens to easily donate what they cannot use.

In August 2010 when was only 15 months old, a survey of registered food pantries indicated that more than 3 million pounds of freshly harvested locally grown produce had been donated to food pantries. At the end of 2011, it had increased to more than 20 million pounds.  There are other benefits as well.  Families who utilize the food pantries are introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to and gardeners across America can enjoy the satisfaction of helping their neighbors in need by reaching into their backyard instead of their back pocket.  With one out of six Americans (including one quarter of all children under age six) without access to healthy fresh food at their local food pantry, can make a significant difference!

Below you can view a TEDx talk from founder, Gary Oppenheimer.

How can you help?

Learn more about Ample Harvest on their website, or contact them directly via e-mail.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or their blog.

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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Edible Schoolyard Project

The Edible Schoolyard Project

I grew up watching my mother and grandmother tend their huge gardens full of vegetables and some fruits.  In the last couple years I have started a small garden at home and have watched my kids enjoy helping and even trying the vegetables we have grown (which is a breakthrough moment for my anti-vegetable daughter).  Today’s organization has been bringing vegetables into schools for over 16 years.

In 1995, Alice Waters was quoted in her local paper stating that the school she passed each day looked as if no one cared about it.  The principal of that school, Neil Smith, contacted her to see if she had an idea to help.  Alice, a chef, wanted to start a garden and teaching kitchen at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.  She saw these as tools for enriching the curriculum and the life of the school community.  The idea slowly began to take to form and through the involvement of faculty and parent volunteers, The Edible Schoolyard was born.

The garden and kitchen are not just used to teach gardening and cooking.  Lessons have included teaching fractions in the kitchen and growing heirloom grains to learn about early civilizations.  In addition, students who are involved in the garden are more likely to try the foods grown there.

The mission of the Edible Schoolyard is to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program.  At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California the Edible Schoolyard curriculum is fully integrated into the school day and teaches students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities.

You can watch the Edible Schoolyard in action in this short video:

The Edible Schoolyard Program now supports school garden programs throughout the world by providing resources and tools for teachers, parents, and advocates.  During the summer, the Berkeley location opens their doors to host the Edible Schoolyard Academy to provide hands-on activities, presentations, guided discussions, and curriculum building sessions to provide participants with the tools for teaching edible education.

How can you become involved?

  • Explore the network of school garden programs on the Edible Schoolyard website to see if a school near you is participating.  You can also register your school program.
  • Utilize the resources for school garden programs on the organization’s website or even contribute your own resource.
  • Sign up for the Edible Schoolyard Academy to learn how to incorporate edible education into your school.
  • You can also make a monetary donation to support the Edible Schoolyard program on their website.
  • If you live in Berkeley, California, you can volunteer at the Edible Schoolyard there.  Learn more on their website.  You can also volunteer at a school program near you.  To find one, search here.

To learn more about the Edible Schoolyard, visit their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, as well as their newsletter and blog.

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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Sow Much Good

Sow Much Good

It is harvest time for home gardeners.  Several of my Facebook friends have been posting pictures of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more that they have picked from their gardens.  Not everyone has the ability to garden in their yards or have easy access to fresh produce.  Today’s organization is helping those living in one urban area get more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

In 2008, Robin Emmons decided to plant a few extra rows in her garden for her brother and others living in his mental health facility.  She had seen her brother’s health decline while he was being treated for his mental disorder and she felt it was due to his consumption of canned and sugary foods.  This was all the facility could provide since they were unable to afford fresh produce on their non-profit budget.  After Robin’s donations of fresh fruits and vegetables, her brother’s physical health improved dramatically as did the health of others at the facility.  Robin knew this probably happened in other places and she decided to do something about it.  This was the birth of her Charlotte, North Carolina based non-profit named Sow Much Good.

Sow Much Good is a 100% volunteer organization. Without volunteers manning the farm stands on Saturdays, people living in urban food deserts would not have access to healthy, affordable produce.

Sow Much Good believes that everyone has the right to clean and nutritionally dense food.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  The organization’s mission is to provide produce in underserved communities while teaching its residents how to grow and prepare their own fruits and vegetables.  They do this with hands on labor of their volunteers.  Even their executive director can be found working with other volunteers planting, weeding, and watering their three garden sites.  They then sell the fresh produce they harvest at farm stands at a low cost to people living in urban food deserts (areas without a full service grocery store). 

Company volunteer days are ways for corporations to be involved with Sow Much Good’s three micro farm sites.

Sow Much Good partners with landscapers, gardeners, farmers and community groups, and others to further their mission.   Through these partnerships, workshops have been held to show others how to grow gardens.  These workshops include information from nutritionists, growers, master gardeners and others.  A small 100 square foot garden can provide a family up to $700 worth of fresh produce per year and even a small garden can make a difference to those unable to purchase fresh produce nearby.

How can you help?

  • If you live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, you can volunteer at one of their three gardening sites or at their farm stands.  You can find a list of local volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • They also seek monetary and in-kind donations to further their mission.  You can learn more about these opportunities on their website

You can learn more about the Sow Much Good organization on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related posts: Hands for Harvest and Open Arms of Minnesota


Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Tree Trust

It is Spring!  In Minnesota this year Spring has taken a long time to arrive.  Spring is one of my favorite seasons – green appears out of the grey, flowers bloom and baby animals start to appear.  Today’s organization is dedicated to greening our local community while making a difference in people’s lives.

Tree Trust is an organization serving the state of Minnesota.  Their mission is to merge lives and landscapes to improve the community environment by investing in people.  Their programs provide meaningful opportunities for greening the local community; give youth the chance to experience success, boost their self-confidence, and find direction; teach practical job skills to help adults re-shape their lives; and help neighbors understand and connect with each other and the natural world.

By the 1970’s, Dutch elm disease had devastated the elm tree population in Minnesota.  Elm trees had been popular in neighborhoods prior then, so this disease devastated the urban tree canopy.  Tree Trust was created in 1976 to address not only the loss of trees but also the high unemployment and poverty rates for youth and adults at the time.  They began combating these issues by providing out-of-work individuals with training and paid jobs reforesting the community.  Since their founding, they have expanded to also offer integrated employment training, community forestry and environmental education programs.

They are located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  They serve the entire state, but primarily focus on the seven county metro area.  This year Tree Trust celebrates 35 years of bringing people together to create positive, lasting changes in their lives and in their communities.  They believe that amazing things happen when people connect with one another and the natural world.

Tree Trust does not just plant trees.  Their projects have included staircases and retaining walls to control erosion, removing buckthorn to give native plants a chance to thrive, creating trails and boardwalks make parks more accessible and enjoyable, building LEED-certified houses that conserve energy and natural resources, and planting thousands of new trees each year, and removing dead and diseased trees to preserve and protect community forests.

Since 1976 Tree Trust has provided job training and employment for 32,000 young people and 10,000 adults; completed hundreds of park maintenance, landscaping and construction projects; planted 72,000 trees and shrubs in schools, parks and community areas; and increased awareness and educated 115,000 students, teachers and community members about the importance of trees and green spaces to the health and vitality of a community.

Volunteers play important roles at Tree Trust.  Here are some of the ways they utilize volunteers:

  • Hundreds of people volunteer every spring and fall to plant trees with Tree Trust.  They provide hands-on training at each event, so no experience is necessary. Individuals, friends, families and groups are invited to volunteer. Children and dogs are also welcome, as long as they’re supervised.
  • Volunteers hand out hundreds of trees to residents who participate in municipal tree distributions.  These events are great for families, friends and other small groups, however, you must be able to do some heavy lifting.
  • Volunteers come help preserve Tree Trust’s past by helping to preserve photos taken over their 35 year history.  The archive volunteer position is great for individuals who have a good understanding of computers.
  • Volunteers can help by folding letters and stuffing, sealing and stamping envelopes.
  • Tree Care Advisors, Master Gardeners or volunteers with a strong interest in trees, can help teach and train the volunteers at their planting events.  Volunteers also teach students at “Learning with Trees” school plantings.
  • Tree Trust is also open to other volunteer opportunities based on your own interest.  Please contact Tracie Huhn to discuss your interests.

In addition, as with other organizations, monetary donations are also welcome.  Donations are accepted via their website or via

Tree Trust is recognized nationally as one of the leading nonprofit organizations that involves diverse urban populations in employment, community forestry and environmental programs.  Tree Trust is leaving lasting improvements in Minnesota’s parks, nature areas, schools, neighborhood spaces, community agencies and backyards.  Learn more about them at their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.  You can also follow their blog.

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Hands for Harvest

I’m a wanna-be gardener.  The few times I have made attempts I either get one plant that overtakes the garden or I can’t tell the weeds from the real plants until it is too late.  I do enjoy the fall when boxes of cucumbers, tomatoes and squash appear in break rooms at work.  I take a few while appreciating the work others went through to achieve the harvest and then thinking…maybe I will try a garden next spring.

Maybe next spring, instead of making a wasted attempt at a garden of my own, I will help out Hands for Harvest.  This organization builds community and provides fresh produce for local food shelves by growing, cultivating, and harvesting crops on a volunteer farm.  In 2010, the farm was located in Green Isle, MN (just a bit west of the Twin Cities metro area). 

Hands for Harvest began as the senior year internship project for Travis Dahlke and turned into a non-profit organization.  Individuals and groups, from ages 3 to age 75, have volunteered with them.  They began in 2009 and harvested over 12,000 pounds of potatoes on just one acre of donated land.  This was accomplished with a minimal budget and over 200 volunteers. 

In October 2010, co-founders Travis Dahlke and Nathan Dahlke received the Service Award from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN for their work with Hands for Harvest.

How can you help?

  • In the spring, you may contribute seed potatoes or contact them for other needed donations.
  • They also depend on volunteers to plant in the spring and harvest and box up produce in the fall.  Co-founder Travis Dahlke says, “The donation of your time is the most valuable resource you can contribute!  Please consider volunteering with us today!!” 
  • Hands for Harvest is looking for opportunities to grow crops in and around the Twin Cities metro area.  If you have an open lot from a ¼ acre to an acre in size that you would be willing to donate, please let them know!

You can learn more on their website,, via e-mail at, or by phone at 952-594-0820.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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