RANDOLPH - A Cattaraugus family is doing their part to help the hungry.
Early Tuesday morning, Kerry Mihalko, healthy foods consultant for Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play, alongside Sue Colwell and China Kinney of St. Susan Center in Jamestown, visited the Evans Brown family in Randolph. The nature of their visit was to congratulate the family on helping in the fight against hunger.
In early May, Dr. Timothy and Holly Evans Brown, along with their five children, pledged to grow a "giving garden" to help feed the hungry at St. Susan Soup Kitchen. So far, the garden produces 15 bushels of vegetables on average every week and may lay claim to the title of largest giving garden of 2012.
The Evans Brown family stands in front of their giving garden for St. Susan Center. From left are Matthew, Mattie, Holly, Marcus and Mallory. Also helping with the garden are Makenzie and Dr. Tim Brown.
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb
"We bring in about three bushels every other day and the harvesting season is about four to five weeks long," said Holly. "In the end that should put us somewhere around 75 bushels."
The donations made to the soup kitchen by the Evans Brown giving garden are sizable by themselves. What is more impressive, though, is that the Evans Brown family's garden is only one out of 35 that is a part of the giving gardens program.
"At first, when I would come out here and pick (vegetables) in the beginning, I'd look at what I've picked and think to myself, 'I don't really think this is that much of a contribution,'" said Ms. Evans Brown. "But then it hit me, 'these are fresh and free of pesticides and really good quality,' and you think about how 34 other gardens are making contributions as well. That's when you realize the big picture. The clients at St. Susan's deserve to have this quality of food just as anyone else does. Many of them don't have the conditions needed to grow their own, so they can have ours. It's an all-around win-win."
And though her family's contribution to St. Susan's is altruistic, Ms. Evans Brown said her family's giving garden has also become a way for her family to spend time together.
"All the kids help out with the garden - Mattie was out here at 8:30 (Tuesday) morning picking beans," said Holly. "The kids range from three to 15 and they all have a job. Marcus does cucumbers and squash, Makenzie does lettuce, Matthew is that tomato guy ... and they all love it."
Colwell estimated that, by the time fall is over and the giving gardens program is done for the year, the soup kitchen will have likely saved $4,000 to $6,000 on produce thanks to the donations from the giving gardens.
"The program has turned out better than we could have ever hoped," said Mihalko. "We are so excited about the success of this program and the generosity of everyone in the program. Sue and I were talking about the things we said during the beginning of the project, things along the lines of, 'hopefully we get five or six people to participate.' Thirty-five people participated and the gardens ranged from a few potted plants to multiple acred gardens. And furthermore, people who couldn't grow a garden have looked at the gardens and used them as inspiration to donate other produce to St. Susan's. The turn-out is utterly remarkable."
Due to the success the giving gardens program saw in its inaugural season, Mihalko said she believes that the program will become an annual tradition going forward.
"So long as (enough staff is available), I can see the program becoming larger next season," said Mihalko.
Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play is a project funded by the New York State Department of Health focused on primary prevention of chronic disease. The Chautauqua County Health Network was awarded a five-year grant in the fall of 2012 to administer Creating Healthy Places.