Jon M. Huntsman Sr once said, “A crisis creates the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed.”

The past few months have indeed been a crisis, as the pandemic has changed much of what we—as individuals, as a community, and as an organization—conceive as ‘normal.’ However, there is often strength in adversity and the ability to adapt despite challenges and uncertainty.

Natalie Pax, Food Access Assistant at Project GROWS

Project GROWS has been managing the preschool garden at Dixon Educational Center for a few years now. As the Food Access Assistant this year, I was excited to plant a thriving school garden and lead garden lessons with the children in an effort to educate about nature, gardening, food, and nutrition (and, most importantly, get them outside and excited about the environment!).

However, with abrupt school closings and an uncertain future as a result of the pandemic, many of the plans in the Dixon garden program had to be altered or cancelled. While it is unfortunate that we were not able to engage the students and the broader school community in the garden space, I take pride and comfort in the fact that the garden beds continue to produce nutritious vegetables as well as provide a home to many beautiful flowers and perennial plants.

Delicious hakurei turnips at the Food Pantry!

We were able to donate almost 40 pounds of hakurei turnips to Central Food Pantry in Staunton, which they plan to distribute to roughly 40 families in the community during their Wednesday morning food pantry. In addition, over three trays of extra plant starts will be donated to Embrace Community Garden. The various plant starts for donation include: tomatoes, hot peppers, herbs, cucumbers, watermelon, summer squash, lemonbalm, and flowers such as sunflowers, calendula, rose campion, celosia, bee balm, and strawflower.

Despite the pandemic and the cancellation of so many of our programs, I am beyond thrilled that the vegetables and extra plant starts could find homes in families and organizations of the Staunton/Augusta County/ Waynesboro communities. I look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership with Dixon Educational Center and prepare the garden for the future, when we can continue to grow nutritious food and educate youth about the importance of going outside, growing food, and appreciating nature!

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