Family. Love. Friendship. These things define us, connecting us to the surrounding world and making our lives both enriched and worth living. When I met the Fermilab Garden Club this season, I imagined I would simply see gardens. Instead, I saw lifelong friends living, breathing, and building community.
Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility in Batavia, Illinois, is a 6,800- acre site of incredible natural beauty as well as a business which houses over 1,000 employees. Almost 90 gardeners lease 200 plots, each 20’ X 40’ on a quiet stretch of Fermilab property. All the plots are individually plowed, fenced, planted, watered, and maintained by the gardeners; employees of Fermilab.
This delightful garden is an energetic conglomeration of people from across the world and has become a unique and special expression of community giving. Encouraged by a state of the art employee time clock software management at Fermilab, these physicists and employees of all ages come from countries around the globe such as Taiwan, New Zealand, Russia, and India to spend time together in the healthy presence of nature. They all give advice, share friendship, and most importantly – keep themselves emotionally and physically healthy by being a part of this unique experience.
Some of the gardeners have been tending these plots for 35 years. Many have special and heartwarming stories about the love they have for nature and the passion they all have for touching the earth and growing food. Flowers are abundant as well, and are grown simply for their beauty. There’s even an orchard which was started over a dozen years ago which produces apples, pears, and plums.
Each gardener harvests nearly enough fresh produce to feed their entire extended families – from children to great-grandchildren. They preserve, freeze, and dry what foods they are able, however, most also give-away hundreds of pounds of food every year to neighbors and local food pantry’s who desperately need the support.
Simply put, the Fermilab Garden Club is truly an inspiration filled with love and caring. It is an example of what a small number of people can do when they come together to make a difference for their community.
Across the United States, more and more businesses and neighbors are doing their part to build community during our difficult economic time. Organizations like AmpleHarvest.org, for instance, discovered that American gardeners were struggling to find food pantry’s that would take fresh vegetables and formed a not-for-profit organization to help connect the hungry with local gardens.
According to AmpleHarvest.org,”an estimated 100 billion pounds of food, enough to totally eliminate hunger, is thrown away annually in the United States.” AmpleHarvest.org enables neighbors in need to obtain garden fresh produce that might be left standing unharvested due to over production in home and community gardens. Please send food pantry’s that are unregistered to this website to help make a difference.
If you have extra garden bounty like the Fermilab Garden Club has – or if you have food products in your pantry that are going to be thrown out – please stop and think about your neighbor in need.
Have a food drive at your place of business – fresh veggies included – and make a difference for your community. Better yet, build a garden filled with love like these wonderful gardeners have. You might be building a lifetime of health and wellness.
Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!