In 2008 Leslie Davis suggested to her mother, a Master Gardener in New Mexico, that in addition to cultivating flowers for worthy causes, she might try growing fresh produce for the community, especially since the recent recession had left so many people unemployed and so many food pantries overburdened.
That discussion five years ago grew like a seed into a thriving bounty of volunteers who harvest thousands of pounds of produce, sometimes in a singe weekend, for people in need.
Led by Penny Davis and dozens of Sandoval County Master Gardeners, the happy band of do-gooders labor to feed their neighbors under the non-profit banner Seed2Need. (Watch a video at the bottom)
“It was a demonstration of the power of teamwork,” said Penny, who last year saw their labor of love generate a whopping 65,200 pounds of fruit and vegetables, with an estimated market value of $82,000. All of it was was donated fresh off the vine to fifteen food assistance programs in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.
“It’s so fresh that dirt is still clinging to the tomatoes,” says Leslie Davis who moved back to the state after leaving her old job. The social camaraderie and sense of helping others has sparked a passion in the younger Davis.
She recounted with pride the story of a local man who owned an orchard. Last fall he offered 80 pristine trees to Seed2Need for the picking. A group of high school students had to go back three times to finish collecting the 11,000 pounds of flawless apples. Participating food pantries were overwhelmed with apples in the first week. There were so many that the central food bank of New Mexico was called in to distribute to other regional pantries.
“Two to three hours and all of a sudden you have 4000 pounds,” Leslie Davis told the Good News Network. “They had to send a huge truck.”
To keep down the costs and control quality the Master Gardeners grow their own seedlings in a greenhouse that, of course, was built and assembled by volunteers. With the tending of their skilled hands, the healthy organic plants thrive.
“Little cub scouts are hidden by these bushes picking from tomato plants that are 5-and-a-half-feet tall,” recalls Leslie, who has noticed over the years of volunteering, the little boys growing up, too.
Seed2Need also provides an easy drop point for residents and farmers in late summer looking to unload their excess harvest. Tons of produce were collected this way last year both at the Corrales farmers market and from individual donations.
With the ongoing drought in the Southwest, the cost of produce is likely to climb, making projects like these crucial to those facing food insecurity.
If you would like more information, or would like to help, please visit their website at www.Seed2Need.us or visit the Seed2Need Facebook page.