Our PAR Vegetable Garden: 17 Years and Growing

By: Bruce Adams

Sun Gro Employees and volunteers caring for our PAR garden in 2016.

Back in 2000, the Sun Gro® Horticulture corporate office in Agawam, MA moved to a new site that included a garden. The garden was originally used for display, but eventually we transformed into the Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) vegetable garden. [The Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) program was launched in 1995 by the Association for Garden Communicators (GWA) and GWA Foundation as a public service to encourage gardeners to grow fresh produce for community food banks and soup kitchens.] The garden was expanded and upgraded in 2010 and has been yielding produce for our local food pantry ever since.

Sun Gro employees and our first PAR garden in 2001.

Over the years, the Sun Gro® PAR garden volunteers/employees have planted, weeded, watered, and fertilized the garden and reaped the harvest. As the company has changed with time, so have our employees who volunteer in the garden. Plenty of longstanding staff have participated in the garden since the beginning, and there are always new employees willing to get their hands dirty to support the effort. Sometimes family members help out, too. It’s a community effort!

Engaging Volunteers

Westfield Technical Academy Students in 2017

More recently, we invited outside volunteers to help keep our PAR garden productive. Our biggest help comes from the horticultural students from Westfield Technical Academy in nearby Westfield, MA. Our garden gives them hands-on training in garden prep and planting, and we are grateful for the help!  They come in spring to help us get the garden prepped and sometimes they help plant. They also help at harvest time when we weigh in our crops and deliver them to the Westfield Food Pantry, also in Westfield, MA.

Reaping the Harvest

Like most gardens, we have bountiful harvests some years and other years the weather and weeds get out of hand, but it’s not just about our gardening success. Our PAR garden also teaches us about working together and committing time to our local community.

In our best harvest year we weighed in nearly 450 pounds of fresh produce, so we know our garden is making a difference! This year, we plan to do much better. Our volunteers have signed up for 2017 and are scheduled to start planting vegetables in late May. We will also be installing three raised beds (filled with Black Gold® container mixes), with lumber donated from Lucia Lumber Co. Inc. in Agawam, MA, and fencing to keep out unwanted wildlife.

Garden volunteers prep beds in 2010.

 

A healthy tomato in our 2016 PAR vegetable garden.

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