A group of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in DeKalb County are celebrating the conclusion of their season of harvesting vegetables for the DeKalb Salvation Army food pantry.
To date the Engh Farm Garden (as it is fondly known), located at the DeKalb County History Center on North Main Street in Sycamore, has yielded more than 3,500 pounds of garden produce. That 1 1/2 tons of vegetables represents a more than three-fold increase over the 900 pounds produced in 2020.
This increased production was due in large part to the Engh Farm Garden receiving funding from a multi-disciplinary special project during 2021. The Growing Together Illinois program, which is affiliated with the multi-state “Growing Together” initiative, is funded through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education and works in partnership with the Illinois Master Gardener and 4-H Youth programs.
The funding provided garden equipment and tools as well as tomato cages, rolls of mulch matting, mushroom compost, seed-starting materials, plants and much more that contributed to the garden’s success. Blain’s Farm and Fleet donated unsold seeds from the previous gardening season. The City of Sycamore provided water that was necessary during the drought conditions of the summer.
Tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, kale, zucchini, peppers and raspberries were mainstay items during 2021. Some of the produce grown at the site included items specifically requested by the DeKalb Salvation Army food pantry. Substantially increased amounts of collards, chard and cucumbers were grown this year as compared to previous years in response to feedback from the food pantry. One of the Master Gardeners’ goals has been to keep the utilization of produce high, and the amount of discarded produce low, at the pantry site.
An over-arching goal of this garden is to be a self-sustaining source of fresh food that the Salvation Army can distribute during its regular operation of the food pantry for years to come. To obtain this goal, the Master Gardeners need to attract more volunteers to assist with regular gardening tasks and stable funding sources.
Individuals or organizations that might be interested in volunteering with the garden or know of potential funding opportunities are encouraged to contact Connie Handel, Extension program coordinator, at 815-758-8194 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Individuals who need food can call the DeKalb Salvation Army at 815-756-4308 for eligibility guidelines and hours of operation of the food pantry. Those not residing close enough to use this food pantry are encouraged to use the Find Food IL community food map to locate food pantries in your area at go.illinois.edu/FindFoodIL. Information includes links to websites for applying for SNAP benefits, finding a local WIC office, and locating grocery stores in your area that accept SNAP and WIC benefits.
Picture caption: Richard Dreier, DeKalb Master Gardener, prepares to deliver an average weekly harvest to the DeKalb Salvation Army food pantry. Photo courtesy of Cathy Anderson.