I grew up in rural South Carolina running bare foot and playing outside for most of the summer. One of my favorite summers was when my family planted our first large garden. We grew cantaloupe, watermelon, okra, collards, tomatoes, potatoes, and more. My siblings and I helped to plant and harvest food. One year, our family faced some health and financial difficulties that made it impossible for us to garden. We quickly went from enjoying nourishing food to an empty refrigerator. I know firsthand what it’s like to suffer hunger as a kid and the impact it can make on learning, playing, and enjoying life.
When I learned that one in four children struggle with hunger in our area and there was a huge need for fresh produce for our local food bank, I knew we could help. I asked my neighboring Red Mountain and Columbia Valley wineries to join me in a Giving Garden project where we’d grow food for our local food bank. Eleven wineries and a vineyard raised their green thumbs to help.
We worked with the Tri-Cities Food Bank to learn what foods they needed and then the wine community divided the list and volunteered to grow the food. Some of us choose cool season crops so we could get started early and provide food right away. These crops included a variety of lettuces and kale. Others built and prepared raised gardens for warm season crops. This included tomatillos, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, squashes, cucumbers, eggplant and more. We met with the WSU Master Gardeners for advice and tips. We set a goal to produce and donate 800 pounds of food between the months of June and September.
As we got into the growing season, we learned a few lessons about bugs, water demand and sun light needed for ideal growth. We planted and replanted. Watered more and less, pulled weeds, planted more and more.
Each week, our volunteer driver, Simon Wells, picked up and delivered food from our gardens to the Benton City Food Bank.
Several wine guests visited the gardens and learned how they too can contribute to the food bank. The media covered our story and this provided even more awareness to our community for the food need. Here’s the coverage by Kelly Bayern at KEPR-TV.
The food bank expressed their need for a freezer and the wineries decided to host an event to raise the funds. The Giving Garden Progressive Soirée was an intimate dinner experience for 30. Guests visited Anelare, Frichette Winery and Hedges Family Estate for appetizers and wine tasting before the grand finale dinner hosted in the garden of Tim & Kelly Hightower at Hightower Cellars. Proceeds from this dinner were to go towards the purchase of a new freezer. Here’s a video from the event.
So how did we do?
- The Giving Garden Progressive Soirée Dinner raised $1400 and will purchase two new freezers, exceeding the goal of purchasing one.
- The Giving Gardens provided over 1.000 pounds of food, exceeding our goal!
- Several guests learned about the “Grow a Row” program by visiting the wineries with Giving Gardens
- The Giving Garden project provided awareness to the need for food for the Benton City Food Bank by participating in several media videos
Thank you to the Benton City wine community for stepping up and providing much needed fresh food to our local food bank. Because of these efforts, fewer kids are going to bed hungry and stand a better chance of learning, playing and living a better life.