Larry Sagers
Since 1995, 16 million pounds of produce has been donated by American gardeners to help feed the needy.
If you are an experienced gardener, don't wait to be asked to help. Teach some classes, help beginning gardeners learn how and share extra produce from your own garden.

The season for New Year's Resolutions is upon us. As I reflect on what resolutions I might want to make, I am torn between making the easy resolutions I know I can keep and the more difficult ones that are going to require more work and commitment on my part.

Although we are past the holiday giving season, make a resolution of garden giving. Garden giving can take many forms and help many people, but the best involve sharing.

One organization I am involved with is the Garden Writers Association.

As a part of its public service, it launched the Plant a Row (PAR) program in 1995 for the Garden Writers Association (GWA) and the GWA Foundation, and I am indebted to the organization for the following information.

There are more than 84 million households with a yard or garden in the U.S.

If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food agencies and soup kitchens, it will make a significant impact on reducing hunger.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 in 8 households in the U.S. experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for an entire day.

Some 33 million people, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must seek emergency food assistance. The demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent in recent years, and many are turned away from food banks because of lack of resources.

As a part of its work, the PAR program assists in coordinating local food collection systems and monitors the volume of donations being conveyed to food agencies.

Since 1995, more than 16 million pounds of produce providing more than 60 million meals have been donated by American gardeners. All this is done without government subsidy or bureaucratic red tape — just people helping people.

Many local organizations also provide food resources for the hungry. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an extensive welfare program to produce food to assist the needy. Local units provide ground, resources and training for community and individual gardeners.

Many other religious denominations also sponsor community gardening projects. If you are an experienced gardener, don't wait to be asked to help. Teach some classes, help beginning gardeners learn how and share extra produce from your own garden.

The Utah State University Master Gardener program is an excellent way to learn more about gardening. In some counties, USU master gardeners also sponsor or assist with community gardening projects.

The Utah Botanical Center in Kaysville has The Giving Garden to help provide food for local food banks. In 2010 the center donated almost 40,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks. The center welcomes volunteers of all skill levels to assist with caring for the gardens.

Wasatch Community Gardens has long been a positive local organization to help people learn to produce their own food. Quoting this information from their website gives an idea of their commitment:

"We believe the quality of a community is directly related to the quality of its food. We exist to build community by providing the space to garden, the expertise to assist others, and the education to empower current and future generations of organic gardeners.

"By doing so, we improve more than our community's green space. We improve its health, vitality and self-reliance."

Wasatch Community Gardens offer community garden plots, classes, training for those who want to start their own community gardens and many other resources. The organization can help direct interested gardeners to find many additional resources.

There are no excuses for not getting involved. I can think of no better New Year's resolution than to share life's basic necessity of healthy, nutritious food.

Even more important, share the knowledge of how to grow that food to feed those in need for a lifetime. It's a resolution that everyone can keep.

Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.

Garden tips

Learn more about the Plant A Row program at www.gardenwriters.org/gwa.php?p=par/index.html

Contact local churches directly for information on their gardening programs.

Local USU Extension office contacts are at extension.usu.edu/htm/counties

Information about the Utah Botanical Center Garden is at utahbotanicalcenter.org/htm/events/givinggarden

Contact Wasatch Community Gardens at wasatchgardens.org