Willow Valley Communities has three gardens for residents to use in a variety of configurations. Residents reserve their plots each year to grow vegetables and flowers all season. Willow Valley Communities’ grounds team till each garden in the spring and plow them in the fall. They are filled with fresh, rich soil and water and tools are available.
After the gardens are readied, residents are then free to work their plot as they wish. Growing delicious vegetables and glorious flowers throughout the growing cycles. Some residents have been gardening for decades, while other residents have only started gardening after they moved to Willow Valley Communities. Some grow flowers; others grow vegetables. But for all it’s a wonderful way to be outside enjoying nature, enjoying each other, and learning new things.
Through the years, something much more beautiful grew out of those gardens—more beautiful than any colorful flower or red ripe tomato. Over time the spirit of giving grew and grew and solidly took root among the Willow Valley Communities’ gardeners.
Maybe it was the rich fertile soil of Lancaster County, maybe it was the extra special care and attention that was put into the plants. But whatever it was, the residents soon found themselves with an overabundance of vegetables. And the question soon became: What are we to do with all these extras?
The answer to that question soon came in the form of several food bank initiatives across Willow Valley Communities that residents organized themselves.
Gardener Deb Janisak of Providence Park is a regular volunteer at the Solanco Food Bank in nearby Quarryville. She knew the food bank would be the perfect place for the surplus of vegetables at the garden. “It’s such a nice, healthy gift,” she said. Fellow gardener, Carroll Adams, who lives at the North community, stepped in to help. She maintains a cooler at a gazebo near the garden on the Manor campus where residents can donate all their excess vegetables. Carroll then delivers them to the Solanco Food Bank in nearby Quarryville every Monday. Hannah Linde, Community Support Specialist, Solanco Neighborhood Ministries, said, “On average, we serve 50 families each month through our Emergency Food Bank program, which is about 1600 individuals a year.
Beans, lettuce, kale, peas, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and much more have all been donated. Carol maintains four plots at the Manor campus in which all of the vegetables she grows are donated. She has never gardened before and though it is a lot of work, she enjoys it. “It just feels so good to give,” she says.
Hannah reflected further on the impact the Willow Valley Communities’ gardeners have. “Having fresh produce in the home can often times be a challenge for families who budget their food bill each week. We all want our families to be healthy and strong and through this program, we can ensure everyone has the opportunity to do that!”