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Volunteer Spotlight: Willing Hands invites Upper Valley gardeners to ‘Grow A Row’

  • A group of volunteers from Dartmouth Helping Hands volunteer in Willing Hands' garden, located at the nonprofit organization's facility in Norwich. (Photograph courtesy of Willing Hands)



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, June 29, 2019

NORWICH — Come harvest time, it’s common to get a bunch of tomatoes or a few zucchini from a neighbor whose garden produced enough to help feed a friend.

Now, Willing Hands, an Upper Valley nonprofit that helps provide fresh produce to people in need, is inviting gardeners to feed their neighbors on a larger scale by planting an extra row in their gardens and donating produce.

“Grow A Row” is a new initiative launched this year. Volunteer gardeners simply need to plant extra produce. At harvest time, donations can be dropped off at Willing Hands, 198 Church St., in Norwich, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or by arrangement.

Sara Cavin, program coordinator for Willing Hands, said the initiative is a way to reach people who may not have time to participate in gleaning fields and other more formal volunteer opportunities.

“We hope that we can make it easy to donate extra garden produce and let people feel that their contributions are making a difference, which they certainly would be,” Cavin said in an email. “We offer so many volunteer opportunities throughout the growing season, but not all fit with the schedules of people who want to be involved. So we thought this program might be a great fit for someone who wants to help out on their own time from their own home garden.”

All produce is welcome, but vegetables that can be stored long-term are especially helpful. These include beets, winter squash, cabbage, onions and carrots. This enables Willing Hands to provide fresh produce throughout the winter and early spring.

Cavin said the new program will help Willing Hands supplement the food they collect from local stores and glean from fields.

“The Upper Valley has a wonderfully generous community that cares deeply about local food, health and equal access to wholesome food, regardless of circumstance,” she said. “Grow A Row is an idea that has been shared among many hunger relief organizations, and it seemed like a natural opportunity for Willing Hands to harness the generosity of the Upper Valley community of home gardeners and supplement the already-impressive food donations that we receive from our partner farms and other food donors.”

In addition to home growers, Willing Hands is always looking for volunteer pickers to help glean fields, removing produce that is left behind after farmers harvest. Gleaning will start soon and continue through the fall, Cavin said.

“Our organization is vital to connecting food donors and volunteers with those in the community who do not have reliable access to foods that make up a healthy diet,” Cavin said. “We aim to make it as easy as possible for these people to have access to the bounty that so many of us take for granted.”

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Editor’s note: For more information on Grow A Row or other volunteer opportunities with Willing Hands, email volunteer@willinghands.org.