How does the Veggie Village produce such an abundant harvest of crops? Volunteers have played a crucial part in the development of the Veggie Village since its inception. The operation of the Veggie Village gardens is led by Lori Schinsing of Interfaith. However, as Lori says, “the Veggie Village volunteers are like no other- they are a second family.” Not only were volunteers instrumental in securing the funding and development of the gardens, they continue to be the primary source of operational labor. Veggie Village relies heavily on a consistent base of committed, knowledgeable, caring volunteers. Three times per year (January, June and September) Veggie Village holds an All Hands Day where they enlist not only the help of their regular 30+ volunteers, but also the help of local National Charity League (NCL) and National Charity Roundtable (NCR) member volunteers to help remove and chop up remaining crops for compost, clear out the gardens and spread the compost.
In addition, a mutually beneficial relationship has developed between the Veggie Village gardens and local Girl and Boy Scout Troops. The Wendtwoods Learning Garden regularly hosts scout troops and exposes them to the sights, tastes, and sounds of the garden as well as the concept of food insecurity and giving back. As scouts grow, they have also become important sources of volunteers. Eagle scouts created and installed rainwater harvesting systems at both gardens in The Woodlands. A girl scout working on her gold award created a living teepee in the Wendtwoods Learning Garden complete with sensory areas where children can climb inside, read and be surrounded by nature. Additionally, scout troops have helped build raised beds to make both gardens mobility accessible.
Many of the recurring volunteers are garden advisors, including master gardeners, individuals who have been through an extensive certification process and are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of gardening-related community service each year. The master gardeners and garden advisors have been invaluable in imparting design expertise, instruction, irrigation and composting knowledge to the operations of the gardens. The garden advising team meets monthly to address issues related to the garden and also helps Veggie Village gardeners by hosting workshops and assisting with their harvest. All of the volunteers, regardless of their role seem to have one thing in common, passion. Lori Shinsing, Veggie Village Director stated,
“We are passionate about what we do, what we are growing, and what happens at Veggie Village.”
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Veggie Village gardens is that in addition to the wonderful benefit of producing healthy, organic food for our neighbors in need, the gardens provide an opportunity for many who would not otherwise be able to be of service to the community. It is truly remarkable to find a program that does so much good on so many levels. Veggie Village harvests more than just produce, it offers hope for a harvest of a better tomorrow for us all.