Growing for a cause:

Community gardens provide fresh produce for those in need

Employees at C.H. Robinson have the opportunity to take a break from work to pursue a different role: community gardener.

The business is one of several organizations in Eden Prairie that are growing fresh produce to benefit the PROP food shelf. Employees can enjoy the sunshine and change of pace to break up their work day while gaining a sense of empowerment knowing their work will provide food for those who have very little.

As part of the “Crops for PROP” campaign, PROP has partnered with Immanuel Lutheran and Eden Prairie United Methodist churches, Pax Christi, and C.H. Robinson. Community gardens are cultivated by the organizations with the goal of donating the harvested produce to PROP. The produce donated helps stock PROP’s food shelf for several weeks.

“The concept began three years ago and since then, PROP has received over 7,000 pounds of fresh produce from our partners,” said Lois Hyde, PROP’s garden ambassador.

The C.H. Robinson garden is in its fourth year and has provided more than 5,000 pounds of produce through the hard work of 160 employees, who volunteer their time to tend to the garden.

Over the years, the gardeners have had the chance to experiment with different crops to see what works and what doesn’t. All of the volunteers have learned new aspects about gardening in the process, whether they are garden newbies or seasoned veterans.

“The biggest reward is dropping the food off at PROP,” said Rachel Geraty, community relations specialist and volunteer gardener. “PROP gains food and the gardeners gain skills.”

To continue to benefit PROP clients well, the partners continuously check in to see what kind of produce is needed the most. PROP is in constant need of fresh produce like peppers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, beans and cucumbers. According to PROP’s May 2012 client survey, 81 percent of the participants rated fresh produce as being “very important.” A diet rich in nutritious fruits and vegetables is crucial for everyone, especially for the growth and development of children. The donation of fresh produce from these gardens contributes directly toward fulfilling PROP’s mission of supplementing the nutritional needs of individuals and families experiencing an emergency financial situation or transition in their lives.

PROP also accepts excess fruits and vegetables from local gardens through its new initiative, “Grow a Row.”

The program encourages members of the community to plant an extra plant, row or whole plot and then donate the produce to the food shelf. “Grow a Row” posters are up in a number of locations where seeds and plants are sold.

For more information about “Crops for PROP” or “Grow a Row,” visit propfood.org.

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