Gardening in Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place: Great Veggie Grow-Off

Like many of us, I am concerned about how secure our food lifelines are. Globalization has led to prosperity but I am concerned that we are very vulnerable to developments outside our control.

As the Vice-Chair and Garden Coordinator of our Food Bank, I know that food insecurity is a hard fact of life for those most vulnerable in our communities. The Lanark County Food Bank (the Hunger Stop) is facing dual challenges of more clients and a reduced capacity of the community to give. Hopefully, we can fill some of that gap with fresh garden produce. The Hunger Stop serves Carleton Place, Beckwith, Mississippi Mills and surrounding area –our volunteers have been growing garden produce in a dozen or more locations and we have already been the beneficiaries of produce from many growers in our area.

The Great Veggie Grow-off (GVGO) is an opportunity for all of us gardeners to share some of the bounty from our gardens. The extreme lack of rain made for a very difficult first half of the growing season, however, for gardeners fortunate enough to have access to plentiful supplies of water, the incredible amount of heat and sunshine has led to some amazing results for vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers that love heat.

The GVGO gauntlet was thrown down on May 1 and the final tally will take place Thanksgiving Weekend. All nine Lanark communities were challenged to grow and donate to their local food bank. Presently all four food banks (Carleton Place, Lanark, Perth and Smiths Falls) take donations of freshly grown produce. They have been asked to weigh and record the community of origin of locally grown donations of food from May 1st until the final weigh-in. Bragging rights will be given to the community that donates the greatest amount of locally grown food.

This Community Challenge, now in its seventh year, expanded a few years ago to include gardeners in communities across Lanark County. The first two years the challenge pitted the municipalities of Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place and Beckwith, the towns supported by the Hunger Stop, and the results were amazing. Competition between Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills reached a fever-pitch and resulted in a major increase in people in these towns growing food and sharing it with others. Thus, the decision in year three to take the challenge county-wide!

For the first five years, Mississippi Mills won the trophy for the largest amount of fresh garden produce donated. It was never a ‘slam-dunk’ – many years it was a neck-and-neck race right to the last day with the lead see-sawing between Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place. However, in 2019 a new competitor emerged victorious – Drummond and North Elmsley. Total donations by gardeners to all four Food Banks in 2019 was an amazing 15,975 pounds.

Your armfuls of surplus garden produce can be brought directly to our Food Bank – the Hunger Stop (aka Lanark County Food Bank). It is located at 84 Mill Street in Carleton Place (big beige building with blue, yellow and orange stripes). We are accepting donations at the back-delivery door. Signs are posted to get you to the right spot.

The following times would work for drop-offs:

  • Monday 10 am to noon and/or 5-7 pm
  • Tuesday 9 am to noon
  • Wednesday 10 am -noon and/or 5-7 pm
  • Thursday 9 am to noon
  • Friday 9 am to noon and/or 4:30-5:30 pm

Leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach are best dropped off Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday as we don’t want them wilting in our coolers over the weekend. Root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots can be dropped at any of the above times.

If it is more convenient your produce can be dropped off at the Almonte Library. There is a cooler in the lobby at the library in Almonte, which is available for drop-off during library opening hours. We are very grateful to the library for making this service available as well as to the volunteers who pick up this produce and drive it down to the Food Bank. Again, we would ask that produce be left Monday through Wednesday only please.

David Hinks
Garden Programs Coordinator
Lanark County Food Bank