STAFFORD – Spring is in full bloom and so is Stafford’s Community Garden.
Now is the time to start preparing for those summer dishes with fresh, home-grown tomatoes or planting your favorite perennials as a volunteer at the garden.
As an arm of The Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County, the Stafford Community Garden does much more than just bring a little beauty to the neighborhood.
The Hunger Foundation, also known as the Southern Ocean County Community Foundation, is a “501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer-only organization which hosts charitable events to raise awareness about, and funds for, local food pantries as they help thousands of families each year in the Southern Ocean County area,” according to their website.
Ellen Meyre, the Foundation’s treasurer, stated that the Stafford Community Garden “is meant as an add-on to the food pantries.” This means that, in addition to nonperishable food items provided by these local food pantries, those in need can get fresh, seasonal produce from the community garden.
The Hunger Foundation works with the Barnegat Food Pantry, Father Ken’s Kitchen at St. Mary’s Parish, Greater Tuckerton Food Pantry, Ocean Community Church, St. Francis Community Center, and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in addition to the garden.
The garden, like the Foundation, is completely volunteer-based. One of the garden’s volunteer organizers is Adele Schock, who noted that the volunteers don’t put in work “for maximum harvest,” but rather to bring the community together little by little.
“People are out there whenever,” said Schock.
The garden is open 24/7 and is accessible to anyone who is interested in partaking. There is no gate, residents can just stop by and plant, tend to the plants, fruits, or vegetables growing, or do some weeding.
“You can go any time and weed or water…we need it,” said Meyre.
The garden’s “season” begins around spring time with some cleaning and planting of cold weather vegetables. Cold weather vegetables are those that can grow to maturity in not-so-nice weather, such as carrots or cauliflower.
Once the weather starts to heat up again for summer, more summer vegetables can take root such as corn or tomatoes.
At the Stafford Community Garden you can find anything from corn to herbs to sunflowers to fruit trees, said Schock. Local garden center, Reynold’s Landscaping, also donates plants to the garden each year.
“The garden is the only visible part of the Foundation,” said Meyre.
The Foundation, in cooperation with the Stafford Library, also puts on events at the garden to bring more of Stafford into this community space while proving that gardening isn’t only for adults.
On Tuesdays in the summer, at 10 a.m., the Stafford Library hosts Read and Weed where kids can come out, read a story about some aspect of gardening, and then actually get to plant something.
On Tuesday evenings, the group hosts Yoga in the Garden.
If you want to stop by and engage with community organizers or someone from the Hunger Foundation, weekly volunteer hours are held each Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Come out to the garden and see what’s growing this year. The Stafford Community Garden is located at Manahawkin Lake, 50 W. Bay Avenue.
For more information on the Hunger Foundation, visit hfoso.org/community-garden.