From Seed to Feed
Thanks to a brigade of volunteers, the Kiwanis Club of Southport-Oak Island’s Kiwanis Giving Garden offers fresh, healthy food to several local food banks.
White and red cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini cantaloupe and watermelon. The Kiwanis Giving Garden located at Horseplay Farms in Bolivia is producing all of that and more.
The crops are hand-harvested and donated to local food pantries. In past years, deliveries were predominantly to Camp United Methodist Church in Shallotte. Recent expansion of the garden has enabled donations to Shoreline Baptist Church in Southport; Salvation and Deliverance Church and Cornerstone Baptist Church, both in Leland; Love of Christ Ministries in Bolivia and Brunswick Family Assistance.
A signature project of the Kiwanis Club of Southport-Oak Island, The Giving Garden was the vision of Steve Corbett, currently president-elect. He started the garden in late spring of 2017 when he recognized the vast amount of food insecurity in the local communities. Corbett commandeered students from the Early College High School and West Brunswick High School Key Clubs, the student service leadership program of Kiwanis. That year, the gardens produced 350 pounds of vegetables.
“Today our garden produces approximately 40 to 60 pounds of vegetables every week,” Corbett says.
Leigh Lane, executive director of Brunswick Wellness Coalition, helps determine food deserts and gaps in food sources within the county.
“We provide some financial support for the Kiwanis Giving Garden and encourage the consumption of fresh produce,” Lane says.
Shoreline Baptist Food Pantry is a weekly recipient of tomatoes, green beans, peppers and cucumbers. Donna Martin says, “We serve 17 families totaling 65 individuals. The greatest benefits are the relationships and the camaraderie between groups working together to feed the hungry.”
Volunteers meet on Mondays and Fridays, starting as early as 8:30 a.m. Harvesting of the crops in the 1,700-square-foot raised beds takes nearly three hours. During planting season, volunteers are there more frequently, preparing the soil and planting fruits and vegetables. Corbett is there most days.
Elaine O’Donnell is one of the original builders of the garden.
“I grew carrots from seed to delivery our first winter and have watched the garden grow exponentially every season,” O’Donnell says. “The win-win is that I am helping feed less fortunate neighbors while breathing fresh, garden air. What’s not to like about that?”
Master Gardener Richard Holt, a first-year volunteer, has been passionate about gardening for 40 years. “It’s not easy work, but it’s rewarding to serve the less privileged in Brunswick County,” he says. Holt also provides insight on planting time, choices of vegetables and pest control.
Patrick Boyce, 10-year Kiwanis member and past president, weeds, waters, pulls dead plants, lays straw and mulch.
“I volunteer because I believe the garden provides a needed service to the community,” Boyce says. “I feel great when I hear how many pounds of food we’ve delivered.”
For Corbett, it’s all been a learning experience. He is developing a new method to encourage tomato plants to grow more controlled and ultimately produce more fruit. “Much of what I have been doing recently has been trial and error,” Corbett says.
Despite the success of the garden, Corbett continues to think bigger.
“Our goal is to donate 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of produce by year’s end if we can learn how to utilize the beds sequentially during each growing season,” he says.
With his team of volunteers and perhaps a blessing from Mother Nature, it’s likely Corbett will achieve his goal.
Corbett concludes, “Stop by. Help us plant and harvest the fruits and vegetables. It takes a vegetable brigade to harvest all our crops.”
Photography by Steve Corbett