Charity garden plots in Hopewell producing food for local families

Aunt Chubby's Mario Lopez and proprietor Lyn Farrugia receive the first delivery of food from the Charity Gardeners at St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Larger deliveries have followed weekly.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this spring D&R Greenway Land Trust established 32 socially-distanced garden plots at St. Michaels Farm Preserve, known as the Victory Garden, which are now producing a remarkable bounty. Six of the 32 garden plots are reserved for charity. Hopewell resident Corinne Egner is managing the schedule for gardeners who donated plants and seed, and have given generously of their time to weed, water and harvest those six plots in addition to their own. 

Every Wednesday since July 15, the fruits of their labors have been donated to about 30 families in need via Hopewell Borough’s Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette. The Victory Garden donations are part of a broader effort by Aunt Chubby’s to operate an outdoor free food pantry to provide nourishment to the Hopewell Valley community.

A bounty of tomatoes produced at St. Michaels Farm Preserve delivered via Aunt Chubby’s.

“We are all hungry for a sense of belonging, being outdoors and living healthy right now, explained Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway. “These times hearken back to the Great Depression, when Victory Gardens provided important sustenance for those who lost jobs or were on limited income, strapped for food.  I especially liked the suggestion to include ‘Charity Plots’ where gardeners donate plants, time and harvest to support those in need.”

D&R Greenway is adapting to world conditions, while celebrating history and agriculture. Stretching back to World War I,  American citizens were urged to create “war gardens,” utilizing idle land that was not already engaged in agriculture, including school grounds, parks, backyards, or any available vacant lot. 

Charity garden manager Corinne Egner amid tomato plants at St. Michaels Farm Preserve.

A new version of ‘War Garden’ emerged during the Great Depression and WWII, when Eleanor Roosevelt planted a “Victory Garden” on the White House lawn.  The site of D&R Greenway’s new Community Victory Gardens once served as a farm to provide food for the children who lived at the St. Michaels Orphanage, which stood here through both world wars. 

The 415-acre St. Michaels Farm Preserve is unique in that it combines public access to open space with agriculture activities.

Submitted by D&R Greenway Land Trust

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