Teens from Palmer Home for Children and volunteers from Florida State University plant bok-choy, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower at Palmer Home’s Hope Grows Farm in Columbus. Mary Tuggle, in the yellow T-shirt, oversees the horticulture program and checks on progress. Some of these vegetables will go to families participating in Palmer Home’s new CSA — Community Supported Agriculture. Shareholders will be able to pick up weekly baskets of produce in season. Photo by: Courtesy photo
March 26, 2014 10:23:50 AM
Palmer Home for Children has been growing produce for its own kitchen for years, but this season, it adds a whole new twist -- by sharing the harvest with the community.
Palmer Home is launching a CSA program -- Community Supported Agriculture. The initiative is a direct relationship between the grower and shareholders, who will be able to pick up weekly baskets of fresh produce in season. Just imagine having homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, collards, broccoli, carrots, onions and English peas on your table. Don't forget potatoes, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, peppers, green beans and much more.
CSAs have been gaining in popularity throughout the United States since the 1980s. Their rise is sparked partly by an increased getting-back-to-basics awareness. More and more families want to know where their food came from and how long ago, and how it was grown.
"Everything is grown local, and it stays local," said Mary Tuggle, whose green thumb supervises all that grows in Palmer Home's greenhouses and gardens in Columbus. The horticulture program not only produces a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs, it produces opportunities for Palmer Home children who tend the gardens to learn responsibility, good work ethic and skills they can use the rest of their lives.
"They learn how to go to work, to be on time, things that will help them when they go to a job later," said Tuggle, who describes herself as a dirt digger. Her passion for the good earth is apparent and infectious.
How does this CSA work?
Shares in Palmer Home's bounty are $300, less than many CSAs around the country. Only 50 shares will be sold. A typical share is half a bushel (about 22 pounds) of garden vegetables each week for approximately 10 to 12 weeks during growing season. The amount and type of produce may vary depending on yield and time of season.
At their first pick up (expected about mid-April), shareholders will receive a basket filled with their share of produce. Exchange the empty basket the next week for a full one.
Pick-ups can be made Tuesdays and Fridays between 1 and 4:30 p.m. at Palmer Home's Hope Grows garden. Or pick up at designated times Fridays only at Palmer Home Thrift Store, Fitness Factor or Rosie's Place (near Columbus Air Force Base).
Like proceeds from the thrift stores, earnings from the Hope Grows Plant Nursery, Fruit and Vegetable Farm will go back into the Christian home for children. By purchasing a share, participants are not only investing in their own family's nutrition and health, they are supporting each and every child residing at Palmer Home. There, children can experience emotional healing, educational support, physical development and spiritual growth.
"This program is going to be very significant because it generates revenue and helps us take better care of our children," said Palmer Home Director of Operations Tom Green, who is helping get the CSA off the ground.
He emphasized the good teamwork involved in this horticulture expansion and outreach to the community.
"And it's particularly Mary Tuggle and Richard Johnson," he added. Johnson is an experienced farmer, part of the Palmer Home team. "They are just phenomenal at treating and taking care of the ground to make what's on top look beautiful."
Shareholders will be treated to some "extras" that don't usually find their way into a typical CSA. Look for bedding plants in the spring and fall, zinnias around the Fourth of July, and a poinsettia at Christmas, all from the greenhouses, said Tuggle.
More produce, plants
Even if you're not a shareholder this season, you can still enjoy some of the good things growing at Palmer Home. Bedding and blooming plants in season will be available to drop-in shoppers on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning this weekend, said Tuggle. Look for a new entrance to the greenhouses and gardens: Enter at Eighth Street South and 11th Street. You'll see a new retail check-out structure, too.
Palmer Home will also have flowers and produce, in season, at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market. The farmers' market will be open Saturdays in April from 7 to 10 a.m. And look for Palmer Home's booth at Market Street Festival May 3.
Palmer Home welcomes the public to three workshops this spring. Two "Build Your Own" container garden workshops are set for April 18 and 25 from 9 to 10 a.m. Bring your favorite container and fill it with plants from the greenhouses. Tips on selection, planting and care will be available.
A Daddy/Daughter (sons welcome) workshop May 10 from 9 to 10 a.m. is the perfect place to create a colorful, blooming Mother's Day gift and make a few family memories as well.
"We've been growing at Palmer Home for years, and we're expanding our plan to reach out to the community," remarked Green. "We're trying to grow the end result, communicate who we are and create new relationships for continuance. That's what it's all about."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.