AmpleHarvest.org: Sharing Your Garden Bounty with Neighbors in Need

What has 180,000 hands and is changing the world? The Extension Master Gardeners of the USA! That’s how we at AmpleHarvest.org think of you—thousands of hands working in the soil, sharing valuable knowledge with growers in every corner of America, and changing the world one garden at a time!

AmpleHarvest.org is a national program, connecting gardeners with local food pantries so that excess garden bounty can be shared with those in need. Gardeners everywhere can use our site to find a pantry for those times when they just have too many greens or cucumbers (or any other extra veggies, fruits, herbs, or nuts).

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients
Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

We have nearly 7,000 food pantries registered on our site from every state. These are pantries that may not have the time or budget required to maintain a website or advertise their services online. For many pantries, their free profile on our site is the only web presence they have, and the only way that gardeners can find them when they have food to share.

We’ve got some exciting news! We’re celebrating our 5th birthday with a complete overhaul of our website. We will be adding new and exciting features to make it easier for gardeners and pantries to work together to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America. We hope you’ll bookmark our page (AmpleHarvest.org) so you can see the new site when it’s up and let us know what you think.

If you’re growing food at home, helping in a community garden, or working with Plant-A-Row, we want our site to be another one of your gardening tools. Whenever someone asks us for gardening help, we send them your way and we hope that when you encounter someone whose gardening experiments yield too many tomatoes, you will send them our way so they can help feed a hungry family.

 

Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry.  Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to ishared@ampleharvest.org
Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry. Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to ishared@ampleharvest.org

Like us on Facebook and share our page with your gardening friends to help us spread the word. If you are already growing and sharing with a food pantry, share this blog with the pantry coordinator to encourage them to register on our site so that other gardeners can find them and donate their excess produce as well.

Thank you for teaching and leading by example. Thank you for keeping the knowledge of our national agricultural traditions alive in your communities. Thank you for changing the world.
Emily Fulmer is the Grower Outreach Coordinator at AmpleHarvest.org. She is a back (and front!) yard vegetable gardener and she has recently added a small flock of Buff Orpington hens to her tiny urban farm. You can reach her at Emily@ampleharvest.org

Exhausted OSU EMGs After Day Four and Five

We are exhausted!  However, it’s the greatest exhaustion in the world, as any gardener knows after a hard day work.  On Tuesday we traveled up around 8,000 feet high to the vivero and weeded and filled soil bags for the tree seedlings.  After about two hours of work, the great Tandana Foundation staff provided us with a wonderful picnic lunch that included local fruits and juices.  After this, we traveled about 45 minutes to the Falcon Farms rose plantation.  This was a truly great experience for us and we were only the second group to tour the plantation.

Matias and Rachel with the Ohio State University EMGs kneeling pad
Matias and Rachel with the Ohio State University EMGs kneeling pad

Falcon Farms has 100 acres of greenhouse under plastic in order to grow cut roses for shipment to the US, Canada and Russia.  We toured a greenhouse in which the roses were planted in rows of 450 plants each.  An employee is responsible for 17,000 plants.  They are all on drip irrigation.  From the time a rose is cut, it take approximately one week to get to the consumer.  Post harvest treatment is top priority.  After a long stem is cut, it takes about 70-85 days before rose stem can be cut.  There were four bud stages identified for us.  The first is rice, when the bud is just forming.  The second is pea and the bud is beginning to swell.  The third is garbanzo and this is just before you see a slight bit of color.  The fourth is color line and is when you just see the sepals part and show a line of color.  The fifth and final stage, is when the rose is perfect and the stem is cut.

Freedom is the most popular variety of red rose they grow for Valentine’s Day.  Thirty percent of their total sales or 4 millions rose stems are exported for this day.  The next big sales day is Mother’s Day and the color is pink and hot pink.  During the summer, sales drop dramatically and our guide pointed out that the US and their home gardeners are their biggest competition.  He said this with a smile!

They employ 350 people year round and hire an additional 150 for Valentine’s Day.  The biggest pest problems are thrips, spider mites and botrytis.  I asked if they used integrated pest management or IPM and he did not know this term.  However, after explaining that pruning, air circulation, sanitation, and the use of the appropriate pesticides, they obviously employ IPM tactics.  They are also very diligent about rotating fungicides in order to prevent resistance.  They compost all of their material and use it back in the beds.  Some of the rose varieties were eight feet tall; the life expectancy for these plants to perform is around twenty.  However, they replace them every five years for production.

Each EMG was given a bouquet of roses at the end of the tour - muchas gracias!
Each EMG was given a bouquet of roses at the end of the tour – muchas gracias!

Today, Wednesday, we drove up around 11,000 feet high and went to Padre Chupa for another minga (community workday) to plant potatoes.  Some of the group made vegetable prints with the 11 children that go to the school, while others made hanging planters out of pop bottles.  And others, such as myself, Denise Johnson, Mark McVay, Cathy Barr, Jackie Mills, and Judy Hrdy-Novak took on the task of planting potatoes.

Planting potatoes in Ecuador is nothing like planting them in Ohio.  The slopes are steep any workable land is used.  The soil on these hills is beyond belief!  The men started the process by preparing the ground.  The only tool they  have is a really large hoe.  This is used for everything from weeding to digging.  Mark helped the men prep the soil (yea Mark!).  The ladies then planted the potatoes, only after the entire bed was ready.  We took a shirt full of potatoes and worked our way down the hill and dropped a potato or two about a foot apart.    After we had 200 pounds of potatoes planted, the men came back and covered them up.  These will be harvested in September.

The view was incredible, the ride a little nerve-wracking for some at times.  Once you get off the main road, the dirt roads are pretty precarious in some areas.  We are so tired tonight so it’s early to bed tonight for most.  Friday I’ll wrap up our trip with the final post and tell you how you can participate in this gardening vacation in the fall.

Pamela J. Bennett, OSU Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator

 

Jackie planting potatoes on the terraced hillside
Jackie planting potatoes on the terraced hillside

Pam Bennett, Ohio State University EMG State Coordinator, and EMGs Mark McVay, Cathy Barr, Denise Johnson, and Judy Hrdy-Novak

Cathy is helping a student make a container garden
Cathy is helping a student make a container garden

Ohio State University EMGs Ecuadorian Update

These past two days have been busy for the 16 Ohio State University EMGs.  Yesterday we loaded up the bus and went about an hour up the mountain to the vivero (tree nursery) to work.  We filled soil bags, weeded tree seedlings and prepared the for today’s planting.  In the afternoon we headed to Lake Quicocha (qui = guinea pig, shaped like a guinea pig) for a great lunch at the dock and then a boat ride around the lake.  Clouds and rain moved in and it got a little chilly.  All had fun no matter!  We went to a local restaurant in Otavalo and had the opportunity to try cui or guinea pig.  This is an expensive dish  or a treat and is not served that often, except for birthdays and celebrations.  Some liked it, some….not so much.

Today (Monday) was a pretty incredible experience for all.  We participated in a “minga” or community work day.   All families in the community are required to have at least one family member participating and helping with the work.  Community leaders planned this work day to focus on planting trees to help prevent erosion and for a windbreak.  As you can see from the photo, erosion is a huge problem in this area and the locals focus on reforestation in order to prevent the erosion and protect the water supply.  You can also see how steep some of the hills were where we were planting.  It was pretty crazy to watch the community members hang on the the steep hillsides and see how they easily plant trees under these challenging circumstances.  We were a little more careful!

EMGs and community members planting tree seedlings on the steep hillside
EMGs and community members planting tree seedlings on the steep hillside

Many hands make small work held true today.  We planted almost 500 tree seedlings (came from the vivero) in approximately 3 1/2 hours.  The soil in this region is a rich volcanic mix and is absolutely incredible.  Most of us EMGs couldn’t start working right away as we had to relish the feel and quality of the soil.  We kind of looked a little weird fondling the soil but if you have clay soil, you know how it is.  We planted on the hillside and then went further down the hill to the school grounds and finished up.  It was really great to walk down the hillside and experience the plants in this area.  We could recognize many of them since they are the annuals and tropical plants that we grow – except they are a lot bigger here.

 

Matias and John working to get the fence tight on the lechero stakes
Matias and John working to get the fence tight on the lechero stakes

 

We also helped build a fence around the area to protect the trees, mostly from animals wandering and smashing them.  The fences were made from barbed wire stapled to stakes made from the lechero (Euphorbia latazi) tree.  This tree is in the Euphorbia family which means it hast the typical white sap and we had to be careful handling it.  It makes for a very durable and long lasting stake.  The stakes were cut from nearby lechero trees with machetes and “planted” in holes about two foot deep, then the barbed wire was attached.

The community lunch is prepared for the feast
The community lunch is prepared for the feast

 

 

One of the highlights of the day was the community lunch.  After a minga, it’s common to have a community lunch.  The women in the community prepare the food and bring it to the field.  They lay a cloth down and then sheets on top of the cloth.  All of the food is then poured out on the cloth in one big pile.  Then, it’s just like Americans – dig in!  It was a great experience and lots of fun.  The food included several different types of potatoes, a variety of beans (including fava beans), roasted corn,  rolls,  all topped with popcorn.  Many of us ate the local way with our hands and some used plates.

The other highlight of the day was our visit with the Yachak or healer.  He shared his traditions and knowledge on healing with us as well as specific details on medicinal plants.  We also toured his garden and learned about the many healing qualities of plant.  A Yachak generally focuses on healing the spiritual side and typically hands down his knowledge to a son or daughter to pass along the tradition.  One  of the most interesting things he said was, “we are born not knowing plants and it’s our responsibility to keep learning about them and teach others.”

Overall, we are all exhausted from planting seedlings at an altitude of 11,000 feet high.  Walking up and down the mountainside to get to and from the school was a little taxing and we were definitely affected by the altitude.  However, as all gardeners know, this is a GOOD exhausted.  Tomorrow we go back to the vivero and will visit a rose plantation and on Wednesday, we will plant potatoes and teach a school group.  More on our adventures on Wednesday.

Pam Bennett, Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator

I got caught with a mouthful of food!
I got caught with a mouthful of food!