Imagine if you could help homeless people gain a little dignity while taking a step or two towards independence and self-sufficiency and all you had to do was to put some fresh and healthy vegetables on your dinner table. That’s Janet Dolan’s vision and the motivation behind The AARRK Garden, 11505 Price Road, in Hebron.
The AARRK Garden works with Community Supported Agriculture to help the homeless and less fortunate through agriculture. Homeless workers earn some money while helping to till the soil, plant seeds, cultivate and harvest vegetables at the Hebron-based garden.
“We have people from P.A.D.S. and from New Horizons,” said Dolan, referring to the emergency homeless center and the veteran’s shelter in Hebron, respectively. “This is trying to address those basic issues that the homeless have in trying to re-enter society.”
How can you help?
The money to pay the homeless workers comes from the sale of the produce they help to grow. In particular, The AARRK Garden is looking for lovers of fresh vegetables to subscribe for a weekly box of veggies. The cost for one plastic grocery bag of vegetables is $5 per week. Depending on the growing season, Dolan expects subscribers will be able to receive fresh vegetables for 10 weeks or more.
Last year, The AARRK Garden gave away almost 10,000 pounds of fresh vegetables. That was before the group started its subscription vegetable service, called CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year.
Growing and selling all that food was a daunting task for a limited staff. Another difficulty was cleaning the vegetables. They brought the vegetables into Dolan’s kitchen to wash them. This year, they have a washing station, which will make the process much easier. The group has also added a hoop house to extend the growing season, a trailer office, a packing shed and cooler.
It’s that simple – in return for a few dollars, you receive fresh vegetables and the heart-warming experience of helping someone who is down on their luck. Subscribers pick their vegetables up Saturdays
“Mostly, I just have a passion for the ‘least of those,’ the downtrodden – people who need a hand up,” said Dolan. “For those who want to get back on their feet, it’s really tough.”
Hebron HS students to help and learn
Hebron High School students also supported the program, before the last school year ended, learning about agriculture firsthand.
“The students will come in and plant in the hoop house,” said Dolan. “Later, they’ll take the little seedlings and plant them in the garden. In the fall, we’ll do some harvesting and seed collection.”
The students will grow melon, tomato and other kinds of seeds – “anything that’s got seeds,” she said.