Last summer's Harrisburg First Baptist Church Youth Group trip to North Carolina planted the seed of an idea that is now yielding fresh produce for the hungry of Harrisburg and Saline County.
Group leader Joe Thompson headed a group trip to North Carolina last summer and the members visited a number of community gardens planted and tended by other youth groups in the Winston-Salem area. They were impressed to see what the groups were doing for the poor. The North Carolina teens gave away the produce that they grew.
When the Harrisburg group got home they voted to plant their own garden this summer and donate the produce to the food pantries at Harvest Deliverance Center and the Christian Community Compassion Center in Harrisburg. They are hoping to interest other youth groups in gardening for the poor.
"Everything we grow, we are going to give away," said Joe Thompson. "Anyone in the community who would benefit from free produce is welcome to contact us."
Thompson is an English teacher at Harrisburg High School. His sons Sykes and Cooper, both 16, were at the garden with Hannah Hesner, 17, Friday.
Rain had prevented gardening the day before but on Friday the ground was dry enough to walk on. The youth applied hoes to the weeds and drove stakes for 200 skyrocketing tomato plants.
"We began in March," said Joe. "We did an early planting of cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and potatoes. Later we planted watermelon, cantelope, pumpkins, zucchini and squash. We have 225 tomato plants, eight different plantings of sweet corn and three plantings of green beans. That spreads out our harvest season," he said.
"We have already harvested lettuce, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. We gave it to the 'Four Cs.' The land has been loaned to us by Steve Johnson, a fellow church member who owns a business next door."
The garden is located on south state Route 145 just north of Pankeyville.
"When it's hot, it helps to think about the people we are helping by doing this," said Sykes. "We are ultimately hoping to help meet their spiritual needs."
Hannah said, "I think it is neat to use what we learned in North Carolina."