I had the complete pleasure of being on an advisory board to support the goal of a young lady, Tori attaining her Girl Scout’s Gold Award. The Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouts given out to those who are ranked as Seniors or Ambassadors. This award is community based by creating solutions in neighborhoods and beyond. Tori’s focus started out asking questions on food insecurity and creating solutions to communities to prevent it by teaching how to grow your own and taking on the challenge of “growing your own” in her backyard to make a donation to the local food pantry.
The United Stated Department of Agriculture defined food insecurity “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life”. This affects more than 30 million people in the United States and can be either a temporary or a long term situation. Globally this affects 349 million people across seventy nine countries. I learned from the head of the local food pantry that food insecurity affects about 31,000 in my township. Food insecurity is becoming a huge issue with the rise of inflation, caused by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are utilizing food panties a lot more because grocery bills are through the roof. These people going to the food pantry could be our own neighbor. I also learned the first thing to always go first at the pantry is fresh produce.
Fresh produce prices are through the roof - organically grown or not. There are many factors that go into the cost of produce such as weather conditions, crop failures, transportation, and paying the farmers. People around the world are switching their lifestyle to be healthier and eat better which means their is high demand for fresh produce and the supply chain cannot keep up - especially if the produce is not in season.
Tori wanted to grow her own to be able to donate fresh produce to the local food pantry. She also wanted to learn how to grow her own to teach others how to grow her own. I can wholeheartedly say, as a product of the National FFA Organization, that Tori lived up to the FFA creed’s second paragraph - “I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life.” Tori took the challenge of starting seeds, transplanting, fertilizing, and monitoring her crops to be able to harvest. This is where I came in on her team, I shared my knowledge with her to help her grow her crops. We talked about seed starting and what products to use, we talked about application products and different types of fertilizers, and most of all we talked about what products would be best when it comes to others buying these products. People want to be able to afford materials to garden. I get to help people pick out the right products for their gardening pursuits. With working at the garden center I interact with individuals who come from different income brackets as well as those who have could have different physical limitations. Gardening is not a cookie cutter practice and Tori was really passionate in making sure that growing your own was affordable and she looked into different ways to garden for those with physical limitations.
I jumped on board with this role mid season where it was the time of the year to start planting vegetables into the ground. I provided advice on fertilizing and maintaining plants to help Tori create her garden. Tori grew tomatoes, sowed and grew beets, peppers, and encouraged pollinators. Tori also did container gardening for leafy greens such as different lettuce varieties. She also started vegetables from seed for fall crops and learned about the correct timing of planting crops throughout the growing season. Tori was able to donate a beautiful bounty in her garden. We were able to talk about different ways to garden that was affordable to all with the raising prices.
After being on her advisory team, I feel it’s really important to encourage people grow their own. I am very fortunate that I can afford fresh produce because I consume a lot of raw vegetables and my son eats a lot of fresh fruits. I live in an apartment which means having my dream garden is an adventure down the road however, being in a community garden can make this become a reality. Being apart of a community garden was another point that Tori looked into for her Gold Award. Being apart of a community garden allows you to grow your own produce for a really good price if you do not have the room in your own. Being apart of the community garden allows individuals to socialize and to learn from each other. In retrospect, it is what our ancestors did from the Old World that allows us to be where we are today when they started farming and building their civilization around the fields.
Tori has inspired me to educate and inspire those around me to grow your own. I’ve been inspired to encourage my current customers to expand their garden and to share Tori’s story of donating some of their harvest. I hear a lot of “I grow too much” or “I have so many vegetables that I don’t know what to do with it”; I want to encourage donating to food pantries this year and the years to come. Tori left an impact on me and I want to share her story to pass it on.
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