Growing Fresh Vegetables for the Food Pantry

By Alison Rooney

Tess Dul

When many of us think of a ‘food pantry’ we see stacks of canned goods, with maybe a donated ham or turkey on the side. Of course every donation is valued, and all are accepted with gratitude. Yet fresh vegetables and other produce often remain beyond the reach of those most in need of healthy diets.

Cold Spring’s Tess Dul understood the sad irony of this, and found an ingenious and heartening way to improve the offerings of our local pantry. As a longtime Girl Scout, Tess, 17, was thinking hard about what to do for her Gold Award, which recognizes an individual, sustainable service project that gives back to the community.

An initial concept, “farming on your lawn,” had been presented to Cold Spring’s First Presbyterian Church by Carolyn Llewellyn of nearby Glynwood Farm. The first thought was simply to place a small garden off to the side. But the idea generated so much enthusiasm that it was decided to plant a much larger garden directly in front of the church. Tess describes the reaction of parishioners as “completely positive—go for it.”

Phil D’Amato, longtime Spanish teacher at Haldane, is acting as project supervisor. Only a few weeks ago, preparations for the garden got underway with the assistance of a roto-tiller on loan from Ande Merante, and a crew of volunteers including the entire Dul family, friends, and fellow Girl Scouts Emily Knapp and Sara Rizzi, who mulched with enthusiasm!

The garden is now planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, eggplant, peppers and parsley, with donations coming from from Carlson’s Greenhouse, Tony Speziale and Vera’s Philipstown Farm Market. All of the produce will be directed to the Food Pantry, and the plan is that pantry clients will be able to come to the garden and pick their own vegetables themselves.

Tess will be watering and weeding the garden until time comes for her to head off to college in a year. At that point church volunteers will keep it going, a requirement of Gold Award projects. Now that the garden is planted, the next stage is to make the enclosure more attractive, and, of course to prevent the takings from getting into the mouths of the wrong clientele: our deer population.

Church pastor, Reverend Leslie Mott , says of the project, “When Tess brought the idea of the garden to Session, we were thrilled, and now with it planted, it is a visual reminder to me of good stewardship—of our plot of ground, and of our commitment to the families who participate in the Food Pantry, both in giving and receiving.”

Tess has dubbed this plot of land the ‘Inspiration Garden’ in hopes of inspiring others in the community to farm on their lawns and to lend a hand at the pantry. Volunteers are always needed at the pantry, and it doesn’t have to be on a set time every week type of basis. Just call 265-3220 or email [email protected]. Someone from the pantry will work out a way in which you can help out.

7 thoughts on “Growing Fresh Vegetables for the Food Pantry

  1. This is the kind of story that restores my faith in people. What an inspirational idea. We expanded our home garden and now I’ll know what to do with all those zucchini. Way to go Tess!

  2. What a great story! Thanks, Tess, for having an inspired idea for the food pantry!

  3. Thanks for this great story. I wish we’d have more stories like this in the news. What a great idea– supplying much needed fresh produce to the Food Pantry. Tess is a true visionary. Hope to see more stories like this one — well written as well as inspiring!

  4. We all know Tess as a performing arts powerhouse, but am so pleased and proud to know of this other most admirable side of her. At 17, Tess’ activism is an inspiration — can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish next! Bravo to the church and all her fellow volunteers for seeing this through.