The Tioga County Indivisible Community Garden, which provides fresh produce to the Wellsboro and Mansfield food pantries, has a new home this 2020 season.
Trisha Walker of Wellsboro has donated her in-town garden to the TCI Garden; organizers hope that the larger plot will enable the garden to exceed the 500 pounds of food that was distributed last year.
“It’s an honor to contribute,” said Walker. “We put the garden in in 2009 and named it Greyson’s Garden, after our grandson who died at six months. I can’t use it this year, and I have met so many wonderful people through TCI. I’m so excited to help.”
The garden is adorned by a sign honoring Greyson, and ceramic animals dot the vegetable beds.
According to recent data from the Commonwealth website, pa.gov, the poverty level in Tioga County has jumped from 4.8% in 2019 to an all-time high of 15% in May, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nancy McCaughey of Wellsboro contributes her time and expertise to the garden, and said, “There are a lot of people in need here, and it doesn’t look like that will get better anytime soon. It’s something we can actually do – we can grow it, distribute it and then people can eat it. It’s tangible.”
A team of approximately five people maintain the garden and distributes food to the pantries.
Jaymin Merritt, a core volunteer, said, “We just do what needs to be done. There is a need, and we decided this was something we could do to make a difference.”
The garden provides fresh food that the pantries cannot obtain from outside sources; pantries receive root vegetables such as potatoes and onion, but they do not receive more perishable, seasonal produce. This season, cucumbers, kale, beans, squash and several varieties of tomatoes will supplement food pantry supplies. All produce from the garden is organic and chemical-free.
TCI also works with individual gardeners who wish to donate their surplus produce to the Wellsboro Food Pantry.
Karen Meyers of Wellsboro, of the Wellsboro pantry, said, “It is a big help when home gardeners donate part of their harvest to their local food pantries. Our clients are extremely grateful for fresh produce. It is so difficult to buy on a food stamp budget. “
Meyers noted that these donations do not have to wrapped, processed or labeled.
“You don’t have to fill out a form. You don’t have to let anyone know you’re coming. Just show up with your fruit or veggies half an hour or so before we open,” she said.
The Wellsboro Food Pantry, located in the Methodist Church at Queen and Main Street, operates monthly on second Monday and fourth Tuesday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
“This garden and the donations do people good, and in some small way makes others’ lives better,” said McCaughey. Gesturing at the large, thriving garden, McCaughey said, “You’re looking at optimism right here.”
To donate time to maintaining the TCI Garden, email tcihome.com. To offer donations from your home garden or for more information, “Like” the Wellsboro Food Pantry Facebook page.