Share your excess vegetables

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There comes a time every summer when almost all good gardeners have more produce than they can eat or store easily. That's when we start sharing with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. But have you ever thought of sharing the fruits of your garden with the hungry?

It's easy. It helps others. And it makes you feel good.

It can be as simple as taking some of those extra tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash to a nearby nursing home. Or donating them to a church with a food pantry.

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Those who are hungry especially long for fresh produce, which is often in short supply at food banks.

But there's an organized project -- with branches in every state -- that you can easily participate in, too. It's called Plant a Row for the Hungry. Its idea is to get gardeners to plant an extra row of veggies in their gardens that they'll donate to those in need.

Even if you haven't planned ahead and done that, it's easy to add your unneeded home-grown fruits and vegetables to the ones grown by others, to make a bigger impact.

This is a people-helping-people effort. It was started by the Garden Writers Association (disclaimer: I'm a former president of GWA) at the urging of Jeff Lowenfels.

Jeff, who writes a garden column in Anchorage, Alaska, visited Bean's Cafe, a local soup kitchen, and realized the need for fresh vegetables to feed the hungry. He urged all his readers to plant an extra row for Bean's.

Then he took the idea to GWA, where it has been overwhelmingly adopted as a volunteer project by garden writers all over the US and Canada.

Since 1994, millions of pounds of produce have been donated to organizations to feed the hungry by gardeners through PAR. From personal experience, I have to say that it makes you feel good all over to take part in this effort.

For more information, visit www.gardenwriters.org/par, call toll-free 1-877.492.2727, or e-mail Par@gardenwriters.org.

A story from the Bangor Daily News will make you feel good , too: Four young farmers in Thorndike, Maine, have planted an acre of vegetables to be donated to food pantries in their area.

They're growing crops that store well -- onions, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, and winter squash, among them -- so those in need will have some fresh local vegetables over the winter, the hardest time for food banks to obtain fresh produce.

Read all about the Veggies4All Garden Project.

Gardeners are such generous people.

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