Plant An Extra Row

By Liesl Clark

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Do You Have Any Leftovers?” was written on the sign next to the man sitting humbly on a street where popular cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating on a Boulder, Colorado street. We were struck to the core by these words.

He wasn’t asking for money or even for “food.” This street beggar simply wanted what we were going to throw away, reminding passers-by that if they had a few morsels they weren’t going to eat at that streetside cafe, he’d be happy to gulp it down. My son had half a bagel wrapped in a napkin that he was going to eat for lunch. He promptly put it in the man’s hands and they smiled at each other as the man gratefully ate the food.

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

This direct experience with someone whom we knew was hungry got us thinking creatively about our food and where we have leftovers that might help others. If you have a garden, you’ve likely experienced the good fortune of excess produce to share with friends and neighbors. Why not share it with neighbors who are in need of food? Plant a row for the hungry, and at harvest time take your produce to your nearest food bank to augment the traditional canned goods people donate. A box full of lettuces, tomatoes, squash, or carrots will bring joy to those who might not have had a fresh locally-grown vegetable for months.

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend and Trash Backwards partner, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I have planted a garden together with our children that donates over half the produce to our local food bank, Helpline House. Potato harvest was particularly fun for the kids. It’s like digging for treasure.

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children enjoy bringing the boxes of produce we harvest into our local food bank. Last year we donated 148 lbs of food and hope to double our contribution this year. Of course, potatoes and zucchini do add up! Planting an extra row or 2 has helped us rethink our bounty in general. When we have the time, homemade yogurt is donated, along with extra eggs from the henhouse and a loaf of fresh-baked bread shouldn’t be too hard to contribute once a month or so. We’re shifting our food-production model to include more hungry bodies. And we’ll think of the man on the Boulder sidewalk happy to eat our half-eaten bagel because he simply was that hungry. Imagine if we could’ve given him a handfull of fresh strawberries, apples, and carrots picked minutes before.

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you can’t plant a row for the hungry, you can find edible bounty around you to donate. We’re looking forward to doing some foraging for our less fortunate neighbors for watercress and blackberries when the season is right. There’s plenty out there, so why not take a little time out of your day to provide for a few more mouths than your own? It brings joy and a feeling of connection to those around us through the food we grow and harvest with our own hands.

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

Looking for more garden inspiration to help you reduce your impact and do some good at the same time? Please visit our Trash Backwards app where our “Green Ideas” under farm and garden will get you excited to take action.

Click Through for Green Ideas for the Farm and Garden at Trash Backwards

Click Through for Green Ideas for the Farm and Garden at Trash Backwards

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Categories: DIY, Plastic-Free Living, Trash Philanthropy, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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6 Comments on “Plant An Extra Row”

  1. April 5, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Every time I’m visiting the US I’m startled by the massive amount of poor in such a rich and prosperous country.
    Coming from Europe I’m grown up with a operating social network that the entire society supports. When you grow up with that, it seems normal.
    the aim is not only to provide people left behind with food, but also with all a life we see as “normal” in the western world needs:
    Shelter, access to healthcare, free education, food, opportunities to develop and thrive.
    I wish all people, all societies, all social groups, interest circles and lobbyists in all countries would grow up with this little pinch of solidarity and therefore accept laws providing all needed to live a life without hunger.
    Especially in rich countries like ours.
    Thanks for your post. – It’s definitely a start and move in the right direction!

    • April 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks for your insights sannekurz. I completely agree. From a waste perspective, it’s stunning to see how, worldwide, even our waste might help curb social ills like world poverty and hunger. Creating a more circular economy as well as one in which we all took some responsibility for local social inequalities by providing care, food, even shelter for each other would maks such a huge difference. Again, thanks for your supportive words.
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

  2. April 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Lisel, you are truly an inspiration. What a great reminder. In my town, which is generally very well off, I spotted a man with a sign stating he had 5 children was out of work and would work for food. It broke my heart and after that I carried a few staples with me, rice, beans, canned tomatoes….in the hopes that I would be more prepared next time.

    There is a practice here to put a table out with extra homegrown produce and a box for money. If I am able to produce enough for my needs and my children’s families the extras I want to leave out for others, but mine will be free.

  3. April 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Sorry Liesl, my fingers weren’t cooperating with my brain. Didn’t mean to misspell your name

    • April 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      Lois, I love the idea of a table or box of produce out in front of your house for people to simply take for free. It’s this ethic that shows there’s hope for human kind after all! I feel the same way. Half the joy of growing food is eating it, the other half is sharing it, especially with those who could truly use it.

      • April 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

        And the other part of the equation is enjoying the amazement and joy little ones have helping in the gardens as you know too. There is no reason to waste anything, there is always someone else who can use it, especially when it comes to food.

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