Great Veggie Grow-off: A great idea that’s growing

By Shaun McLaughlin

Recently, Amelia and I dropped off some cucumbers and zucchini at the Almonte library for the food bank, our first donation of surplus garden produce for the 2019 Great Veggie Grow-off (GVG). Volunteers collect donations from the coolers at the library several times a week and take them to the Hunger Stop in Carleton Place.

With Karen Lomas from the Hunger Stop in CP.

The GVG, started in 2014 by the Neighbourhood Tomato, encourages local growers big and small to contribute their surplus to their local food bank. That provides healthy local produce for families facing some level of food insecurity.

The GVG is also a friendly competition between the eight-member towns of Lanark County and Smiths Falls. Mississippi Mills has won the competition each of the GVG’s first five years. The program runs from May 1 to the Thanksgiving weekend.

When I was mayor, I championed this cause and happily posed for pictures with the trophy each year. While winning is fun, the main goal is to gather as much food as possible for the county’s four food banks. So, this year I took on the role of ambassador-at-large for the GVG to continue promoting this worthwhile program.

Every gardener has some surpluses, especially in a good summer like this one. I believe the GVG can collect much more fresh food if more gardeners know about the program and where to donate. So, on August 7, I spoke to County Council and urged the mayors and deputy mayors of the other towns to do their best to promote the GVG in their towns and try to kick Mississippi Mills out of top spot. (It won’t be easy.)

I urged them to make public buildings into drop-off spots to mirror the success of Almonte’s library. My main point was: make sure that people with a vegetable surplus know about the GVG and where to go.

In its best year—2016—the GVG collected over five tons—almost five times as much as the first year. Last year came close to that mark. This year we can set a new record.

People can take produce directly to the four participating food banks during operating hours. They are:

  • Community Food Bank, 93 Russell St. E., Smiths Falls
  • The Table, 190 Gore St. E., Perth
  • The Hunger Stop, 5 Allan St., Carleton Place
  • Lanark Highlands Food Panty, 19 Clarence St., Lanark Village