This growing season, the Green Bay Packers and Brown County UW-Extension once again are partnering to continue and expand their Planting for a Purpose Program to encourage community members to plant a garden plot and donate fresh produce to local food pantries.
Local gardeners are encouraged to sign up for Planting for a Purpose and pledge to donate a portion of their harvest. Those who sign up at goo.gl/pjTWu9 can receive a free garden kneeler and gardening gloves, while supplies last.
The program, including its new Brown County Sweet Potato Project, will have three kickoff dates:
• Friday, May 25, from 4 to 6 p.m., at 210 Museum Pl. in conjunction with the Northeast Wisconsin Master Gardener plant sale.
• Saturday, May 26 from 9 to 11 a.m., at 210 Museum Pl. in conjunction with the Northeast Wisconsin Master Gardener plant sale.
• Saturday, June 2, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Saturday Farmers' Market on South Washington Street.
This year marks the program's second year, and this year the program is also expanding to include the Brown County Sweet Potato Project, based off of a similar program in Dane County. All community members are invited to sign up to receive free sweet potato slips (plants) with the understanding that they agree to donate half of their sweet potato harvest to food pantries.
Those wishing to participate in the Brown County Sweet Potato Project are encouraged to request a specific number of plants in advance at goo.gl/bdqC7j. Participants then may pick up slips on May 25 or May 26 at the plant sale or at the June 2 farmers' market. UW-Extension Horticulture Education's Vijai Pandian will also offer a free, brief class on growing sweet potatoes at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 26, at 210 Museum Pl.
Local food pantries report that there is a great demand for more fresh produce donations to meet clients' needs, and those participating in Planting for a Purpose help to make sure all community members have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2017, pantries reported 13,814 pounds of donated produce, and Planting for a Purpose hopes to increase this number in 2018.
"Planting, maintaining and harvesting a garden takes a lot of time and energy," said Leslie Sharkey, volunteer and guest services coordinator at Paul's Pantry. "For it to go to help others in our community is absolutely wonderful."
Interested gardeners also can sign up and learn more at http://browncountycommunitygardens.org.