Will Rodgers once said, “The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” If you look at his outlook on life, resident Jack White must have been a farmer in a previous life. He loves growing flowers and vegetables in one of the Spring Run Community garden spaces. What is really unique about Jack, however, is that he has two large spaces and his primary goal is growing fresh vegetables that he can donate to the Southern Lancaster County (Solanco) Food Bank.
Jack White is a “forever young” and very active 90 years old and his garden spaces are his passion. Although he has been gardening here at Willow Valley since he moved in 12 years ago, he started growing for Solanco 3 years ago, after his wife, June, passed away. Jack and his wife had concentrated on growing flowers so June could do her flower arrangements. After her passing, he decided to dedicate most of his garden space to vegetables. Charity had always been part of Jack and June’s lives, but the more Jack thought about Solanco, the more he realized that was where the need was. He still plants some flowers to add beauty to his garden, but also because his wife loved flowers.
Today, 90% of his produce goes to the food bank. Jack grows his garden in such a way that he can deliver a fair amount of each type of vegetable. He takes care to make sure the vegetables look good and he often carefully packages the various vegetables to meet the need of a typical family. Once a certain vegetable is completely harvested, Jack regularly replants the space to insure no space is wasted and there is a steady supply of vegetables from May to October.
Jack may never have come up with the idea of donating to Solanco had it not been for another Spring Run resident, Shayna Manheim. Shayna began her first garden, ever, 3 or 4 years ago. Her husband, Alan, supported her because he laughingly explains that “gardening is much cheaper than therapy”. Early on, Shayna began donating her excess produce to Solanco. When she would occasionally see that other gardens have produce go bad on the vine, she encouraged others to join in and donate to Solanco. The program grew and as new resident gardeners started spaces, it just became part of how things were done. Each Wednesday, Spring Run gardeners collect excess produce and Shayna and Alan deliver it to Solanco, in the nearby town of Quarryville.
Shayna’s background was influential in her interest in donating to the food bank. Her family ran a small grocery store in upper New York State. They, along with their customers, were mostly of modest means. Shayna saw the importance of food and produce, and the lack of it, in the lives of families. Her experiences growing up have influenced her desire to help others and the donations to Solanco are a big part of that.
Finally, it is important to note that despite what Jack and Shayna do at the Spring Run garden spaces, it is not unusual for Willow Valley. The other two garden spaces at Willow Valley, at the Lakes and North communities, have also developed similar programs to make sure no produce goes to waste and is used to help those that are less fortunate. It is all part of the “Culture of Charity” we find at Willow Valley.
By Dale Johnson
Dale Johnson and his wife Christine moved to Willow Valley in 2015. Dale taught geography at Towson University, while Christine was a human resources manager with McCormick & Co. the international spice company.