Planning a garden to donate some or all of the harvest is a bit different than planning a garden for personal use. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers some suggestions for your consideration when planning a garden with the purpose of donating food:
- All donated produce should be of high quality, clean, not over-grown, blemished, damaged or diseased.
- Ideally it is better to plan to donate rather than donating what you have left over. Very small quantities of produce are difficult to distribute to a large crowd.
- Contact the organization(s) to which you plan to donate.
- Note: If you need help in identifying organizations in your area, go to the Maine Harvest for Hunger website and click on Donate Produce. There you will find a link to food assistance programs by town. If by chance the organization is not listed please contact email@example.com.
- Determine if the organization is able to use fresh produce, and if so what would they like you to grow.
- Determine how much and how frequently they accept deliveries, for example, 10 pounds of beans every other Tuesday. Some food pantries are open on specific days of the week.
- Determine how they would like the produce delivered (cleaned, bunched, bagged, loose).
- Remember, some, (but not all), of the clientele may not be familiar with many different types of produce and the volunteers may not have the time to educate people on how to use an unfamiliar vegetable. So, stick with the tried and true. Our experience with the Maine Harvest for Hunger distribution lines has shown that heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs other than basil and dill, Asian greens, and non-standard colored beets and carrots are less preferred than standard varieties.
- Weigh (or guesstimate) the produce before donating and report it to your local Maine Harvest for Hunger coordinator. Or, you can report it online at the Maine Harvest for Hunger Donate Produce web page.
- Thank-you for considering a donation garden this growing season. Fresh produce is always in demand and is much too valuable to go to waste.
From “Donation Gardens” by Barbara Murphy, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Oxford County, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and resources regarding donating food in the Seacoast, visit www.seacoasteatlocal.org, under Food Donations.