In one of The Open Door’s gardens, nestled close to the Eagan YMCA, Arianne Richards and her family have a raised bed filled with cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and watermelon. “The girls won’t eat carrots at home, but here they will eat them right from the garden,” Arianne said. The reason? “Because they’re fresh!” Responded 9-year-old Isabella as she helped her mom pick bright red cherry tomatoes.
This is the first year that Arianne and her family have been a part of The Open Door’s Garden to Table (G2T) program, but it certainly won’t be their last. “It’s fun just trouble shooting what we’re doing and what we can do differently,” Arianne said. “I enjoy seeing what other people are growing as well.”
Arianne found out about the G2T program through a friend. She’d always wanted to garden but didn’t have the space or resources at her townhome. She quickly signed up and has been utilizing the program to its fullest. She picked up starters on plant pick-up day in the spring and has attended classes that G2T Manager Alpa Goswami hosts throughout the year, including the pickling class held this August.
Arianne and her two daughters, 9-year-old Isabella and 5-year-old Makenna, go to the garden a couple times a week. The girls help with watering, harvesting, and general garden upkeep. “It’s been a fun activity to do with them,” Arianne said. The girls showed off the garden with excitement and pride, pointing out the little watermelons and tomato plants. Makenna knew exactly where the garden tools were located and pulled out a scale to weigh all the vegetables she had just harvested.
The G2T program was created to provide individuals and families in need of food support the resources necessary to grow their own healthy food. In its 13th year, the program hosts 12 different garden sites, with over 300 plots, and is an integral part of The Open Door’s sustainable approach to eliminating hunger and improving access to fresh produce. Resources provided through the program include garden plots, water access, seeds, starter plants, garden tools, educational, hands-on classes, compost, and more.
The tangible resources are plentiful for G2T participants such as the Richards family, and the ability to grow and harvest their own produce is a clear, direct benefit from their involvement in the G2T program. However, after just an hour in the garden with Arianne and the girls it’s clear that they take home much more than vegetables. Quality time spent together outside, talking about their favorite dishes to make with ingredients from the garden, and laughing while they engage in healthy activity are residual benefits from the G2T program that Arianne, Isabella and Makenna will carry with them for years to come.
When Arianne first thought about signing up for the program there was some doubt. “I thought, do I really need it?” she said. “But there is no need to feel shame. Take advantage of this opportunity and just have fun with it.”
If you or someone you know is interested in a Garden to Table plot for the 2023 season, head to https://theopendoorpantry.org/garden-to-table-program/ to apply or for further information. You can also contact The Open Door’s Garden to Table Manager, Alpa Goswami, at firstname.lastname@example.org.