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How Does Your Garden Grow?

News of the biggest winter storm to hit the United States in ten years doesn’t divert Ruth Montgomery’s spring planning in Zachary, LA. Peas, okra, collards, mustards, carrots, beets, butter beans and spinach are on the menu.
A bedroom community north of Baton Rouge, Zachary boasts the state’s top schools, quiet suburbs and country living. But it’s not without great need.

Organized in 2009, AARP’s Zachary Chapter 5432, lead by Ruth Montgomery and energized by 47 members, heard the call to help their neighbors in need of food.

“We meet near the Food Bank and Zachary Men’s Club,” Montgomery said. “Whenever the Food Bank was low on food, they’d let us know (the chapter and Men’s Club) and we’d stock the shelves. It wasn’t before too long that the idea of a community garden took shape.”

With the help of Southern University Agriculture Department, members planted a one-acre garden behind the Zachary Men’s Club. The chapter was excited about the opportunity to provide fresh produce to needy families.

“We thought we would have a few rows of vegetables, but we had at least 30 to 40 rows,” Montgomery said. ”Everyone had a job. Men plowed and hoed. Women picked and washed. What once was a small fire is now a blaze of community activism. Everyone participates – even the students at the nearby high school.”

Vegetables were gathered for the Food Pantry every Monday and distributed on Tuesdays. Nearly 75 families have benefitted from the fresh produce grown on the community garden.

“The project has given seniors the opportunity to put their talents to work,” Montgomery said. “We are excited to move forward and plant for the spring. We’ve found out that we can do a lot of things with a little money and hard work.”

Montgomery said her chapter is focused on serving its community. Not only will they continue the community garden in the spring, but they’ll also adopt a classroom next school year to make sure students have the supplies needed to learn.

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