Community garden tops record donations to food bank
Marion’s community garden topped its record this year by donating 6,110 pounds of fresh produce to the county’s food bank — 110 pounds more than last year’s total of 6,000.
Volunteer Pam Byer said she was glad harvest was better, because the need was greater this year as the community struggled with fallout of a viral pandemic that left many laid off.
Last year, she had produce left to give to patrons of Marion’s Senior Center, but not this year.
“This year there was so much increased demand that all of it was given out,” she said.
The garden got a boost as people who were temporarily out of work or tired of being stuck at home showed up to help.
“We had so many volunteers it was wonderful,” she said. “There were always three or four of us out there.”
Sweet corn and other warm-weather crops such as okra, and tomatoes were soaked by rainfall of 3.9 and 4.12 inches during the months of July and August and did very well.
“We got about 600 to 800 pounds of sweet corn and 600 pounds of sweet potatoes,” Byer estimated. “We got lots of cantaloupe and the tomatoes also did good.
“Next year, I will try to keep more meticulous records. It’s hectic when you are out there picking.”
The still-young asparagus patch yielded a “wonderful” dig in early spring, she said.
But Byer’s plans to extend the garden into fall with plantings of beets, lettuce and spinach didn’t work out as well as she hoped.
“Deer or rabbits ate up all the beets,” she said. “They didn’t bother the spring beets, just the summer ones going into fall. I was really surprised. I didn’t think that would happen.”
A $15,000 grant by the Bayer Fund places Marion High School closer to the goal of building a new greenhouse, which will help Byer extend the garden’s growing season.
Bedding plants for the community garden will be raised in the greenhouse throughout summer when it is finally built, she said.
“This year I started them in my basement with grow lights,” she said.