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Nonprofit Needs Help In Garden

Folks who run a nonprofit that yields fresh produce for local food pantries have the chance to expand their garden and boost output but they need more hands to plant and harvest.

Sandoval County Master Gardeners’ Corrales-based Seed2Need program donated more than 65,000 pounds of tomatoes, chile, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and other produce to pantries in Rio Rancho, Albuquerque and Bernalillo in 2012.

Food crops are grown on plots of land donated by property owners in Corrales. This year, the program has the opportunity to increase its cultivated area from 1.5 acres to 5 acres if it can enlist help from enough volunteers, said Sam Thompson, a former coordinator for Sandoval County Master Gardeners.

“We know that the need is out there,” Thompson said.

The goal is to start planting seeds in a greenhouse in March or April, then progress to tilling the garden space and transplanting seedlings. The main effort would be during harvesting season from July through September. Seed2Need also needs volunteers to help harvest fruit from local orchards.

Volunteers can commit to as much or as little time as they can spare; 10 hours a month would be ideal, Thompson said.

Harvesting takes place one weekday and one Saturday morning and one evening each week during the summer. Volunteers will work alongside master gardeners who have been trained by New Mexico State University horticulturists through the Sandoval County extension service.

“It is also a great way to meet people within the community and to learn gardening techniques,” Sandoval County Master Gardener Penny Davis said in an email.

Davis launched the program in 2008. Since then, food pantries like St. Felix in Rio Rancho have reported the number of families seeking food assistance has increased thanks to the sluggish economy and persistent high unemployment.

Sandoval County Master Gardeners also give courses on gardening, advise homeowners on planting and landscaping, and they oversee demonstration gardens Rio Rancho, Corrales and Placitas.

In the spring, Seed2Need will launch a “Grow a Row” program, encouraging local gardeners to plant an extra row of vegetables and donate the produce to a food pantry.

“Most home gardeners grow more produce than they need and we will be providing an opportunity to make sure the produce doesn’t go to waste,” Thompson said.

Seed2Need will have a booth at the Corrales Grower’s Market where it will collect the Grow a Row produce.

For information about volunteering email

Vegetables harvested by volunteers in Sandoval County Master Gardener’s Seed2Need program. Last year the program donated more than 65,000 pounds of produce to local food pantries. The program hopes to expand this year and is seeking volunteers. (journal file)

— This article appeared on page 10 of the Albuquerque Journal