Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Ready to Garden

Yes. I know it is only January.  And yes. I am aware that the high temp. for the day is 20 degrees F. but I CANNOT HELP thinking about our 2015 gardens.  

Dunkirk Weather Report >.<

My cat, he's cute, no?

Will there be rows of beans or carrots, or both?  Will I have to fend off ravenous deer, mega rude rabbits, or old people who can't remember taking all the tomatoes?  Will the kids at BOCES and the Boy's and Girl's Club want to grow potatoes, peas, or gigantic pumpkins?  SO MANY QUESTIONS... maybe that's why I can't sleep.  Actually, no, the reason I can't sleep is because my cat is an extraordinarily vocal jerk.  

So, back to the gardens.

Some commonly asked questions:

1.) Why Do We Grow Food?

Here in Dunkirk, there is a fresh food scarcity due to the small number of groceries, ridiculous amount of convenience stores, and lack of transportation and funds from the people who live in this area.  38% of the overall population lives in poverty, while the childhood poverty rate is 48%.  The county average is 18%, which coincides with NYS poverty rate.  Point being, Dunkirk needs more access to fresh, organically grown food and we are happy to provide that!

2.) How Do We Do It on a Tight Budget?

Honestly, it requires a lot of mailing, a few too many phones calls, and a TON of thank you notes to make the Gardening Program what it is.  This time of year, I mail over 30 seed companies across the country asking for seed donations from their excess supplies.  In mid-June, I call greenhouses to see if they have any extra vegetable and flower plants that are overgrown and not-selling.  Then, when all the supplies are acquired, I head out to the garden plots armed with my shovel and allergy medicine to grow food for the soup kitchen and food pantry.  

Students at the BOCES Education Garden incorporating soil amendments (i.e. goat poop) into the garden.

3.) Is This REALLY My Job?

Yes, yes it is.

As gardening season draws closer and I get more obsessive about where exactly I am going to plant the tomatoes, feel free to drop a call at (716) 366-1787 asking for gardening tips, sourcing ideas, and extra seeds and plants. 
A box of seed donations from Heirloom Seed Company!

We ALWAYS have free seeds to hand out starting in April, as well as free plants to giveaway around early July.  Whether you're a home gardener in Chautauqua County, or you work for an agency that you think would benefit from gardening supplies, you qualify for free seeds!  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Looking Back on 2014

Gleaning grapes in Fredonia.
2014 was a big year for gleaning.  Farmers from all over the county contributed to helping those in need by donating portions of their farms and fields to feed the hungry.
Below are our year-end statistics for 2014.

35,915 lbs.
FOOD RECOVERED (from bakeries)
2,278 lbs.
1,300 lbs.

Flower donation from Westfield Nursery in Chautauqua County.

Here in Dunkirk, NY, we also hosted over 40 cooking and nutrition workshops reaching out to low-income families and individuals.  
620 persons
-Cooking out of the Cupboard
-Preserving the Harvest: Canning and Christina
-Going Gluten-Free: Part I & II
-Springtime Cooking
-Eating Local in Chautauqua County
-How to Make the Perfect Quiche
-Real Food Fall Time Favorites
-Eating with Type II Diabetes
-How to Make Applesauce
-How to Make Grape Juice
-What's in Season? Ratatouille

Easy as Pie Workshop with Christina Jarvis and Jeanne Frerichs.