U professors donate time and

Emily Dalnodar

A few extra seeds in the garden have the power to feed those less fortunate.
Plant a Row for the Hungry is a program asking professional and hobby gardeners to plant an extra row of produce each season.
As planting season kicks into gear, volunteer gardeners, including University professors, have high hopes for the impact of this year’s crop.
After harvest, volunteers drop off their spare fruits and vegetables at local sites to feed those in need.
The Garden Writers of America, a national organization of professional garden communicators, started the program in 1995. Wisconsin and some East Coast states already participate. Now Minnesota joins the ranks.
Even if people don’t garden, they can help, said University extension professor of horticulture Pat Weicherding. Although Weicherding’s yard is too shady for growing produce, he volunteers his time distributing information about the program and coordinating local efforts.
He also makes a point to remind advice-seeking gardeners who call his office to keep an extra row free for the program. By spreading the word, he said he hopes the program expands.
“Even if someone has limited space, they could have a tomato plant on their porch or window ledge,” said Lynn Annis, spokeswoman for Second Harvest, a food distributor. “Obviously corn wouldn’t be good.”
Although program organizers set no specific goals, they expect a lot of community participation. They won’t know how much active cooperation they’ll receive until later this summer when the produce is actually harvested.
“We’re really excited about the potential here,” Annis said. “People in Minnesota are really generous with helping out their neighbors.”
Second Harvest plays an integral part in Plant a Row. Once produce is dropped off at designated sites, the company picks up the food and sends it along to appropriate locations.
Not all the food goes to shelters, however. Some produce is distributed to programs for homeless children, Alzheimer’s patients and neighborhood revitalization, Annis said.
The Wisconsin-based Milorganite Company backs the program by providing promotional materials, organizing meetings and involving media.
Milorganite, which produces plant fertilizer, has supported Plant a Row from its inception. But this is the first year with so much media attention, said Larry Lennert, manager of research and product development at Milorganite.
“I anticipate it’s going to be a pretty big deal,” Lennert said.