Fourth Annual Farm-to-Table Dinner Celebrates 'Harvest of Victory'

Grow Food, Grow Hope Raises Funds for Pavilion at Community Gardens

September 22, 2012

AmeriCorps*VISTA staffer Kayla Beitz displays a rainbow of locally produced vegetables that was auctioned at the fourth annual Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner.

AmeriCorps*VISTA staffer Kayla Beitz displays a rainbow of locally produced vegetables that was auctioned at the fourth annual Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner.

Money raised at the fourth annual Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner Thursday (Sept. 20) has put funding over the top for the purchase and construction of an open-sided pavilion on the grounds of Wilmington College’s community gardens.

More than 100 persons dined on a menu — produced at the College and local farms — of fruit and vegetable dishes, cheese, smoked chicken, loin of pork, appetizers and desserts prepared by co-sponsor Sodexo, the College’s dining services provider.

The 40 small garden vegetable plots that serve as the centerpiece of Grow Food, Grow Hope’s gardening outreach were within sight of the tent under which the evening’s activities transpired.

Complementing funds raised from the admission price were silent and traditional auction proceeds and dinner sponsorships.

Tara Lydy, director of WC’s Center for Service and Civic Engagement, said the proposed pavilion would become an integral part of the Grow Food, Grow Hope Community Gardens initiative in teaching small plot vegetable gardening to local families whose breadwinners are unemployed, underemployed or on fixed incomes.

Construction is planned for this fall.

During the weekly summer gatherings of families to tend to their individual 4x12-foot garden plots, Lydy regularly leads demonstrations on various ways to prepare such fresh items as radishes, beets, lettuce, squash and tomatoes.

She said the pavilion would provide a weather safe environment for the demonstrations and other activities, and would be utilized by other College groups.

Testimonials by two of the this year’s gardeners highlighted the program as Bill Limbacher and Jack Frye shared their stories of how they came to Grow Food, Grow Hope, and how something as simple as learning vegetable gardening has so positively impacted their lives.

(LEFT) More than 100 guests dined on locally produced food at an event that benefitted Grow Food, Grow Hope.

Limbacher in 2009 found himself unemployed and living on food stamps in a Cincinnati apartment with no heat when he returned to his hometown Wilmington.

While searching for employment, Limbacher, who has studied at five colleges and universities, volunteered at the College’s Watson Library and Peace Resource Center, and even had a student that paid him to teach Cherokee.

“I tried to reinvent myself and found my way to Grow Food, Grow Hope. I thought, ‘Here’s a chance to do something new and interesting,’” he recalled, noting his previous experience with growing food on a larger scale was not a pleasant memory.

“I realized gardening is fun. I learned a lot from my gardening mentor, (the late) Fred Krisher, and found out that Grow Food, Grow Hope was about more than growing food — it was about bringing people together.”

Limbacher hopes next year to “complete the circle” by serving as a gardening mentor himself at the community gardens.

“A little 4x12-foot plot will not only fill your belly,” he said, “it will nourish your heart and soul.”

Frye is a military veteran with a college degree that lost his job when DHL abandoned the Wilmington Airpark.

(RIGHT) Jack Frye tells his story of involvement with the community gardens.

He recalled starting his gardening journey as “a novice, an ultra-novice.” But, once he dug into the soil, planted seeds and tended his plot, he began to feel a real connection to the garden and his fellow gardeners.

“There were signs of hope in the garden, the hope that comes with new growth, time and labor,” he said. “As the learning experience continued, I continued to grow. I enjoyed smelling the soil, seeing the colors in my garden and picking something fresh from the vine.”

He related his personal transformation to a town and county also hard hit by the recession.

“The plants have grown, I have grown, the gardeners have grown in community,” Frye said. “It’s been a harvest of victory. With hope, labor and love, Clinton County will once again experience that harvest.”
Max Webster, the AmeriCorps VISTA public relations staffer for Grow Food, Grow Hope, praised Limbacher and Frye as two of the its “star” gardeners.

“Theirs is a testament to what our gardens can teach,” he said. “They share the same experience the 40 families share each week.”