FAIRBORN — Last year, master gardeners Gary Abfalter and Denise Wetzel were able to supply pepper plants and tomato plants in pots to their neighbors through the Fairborn FISH food pantry. Due to COVID, they weren’t able to be present to give the plants away. This year, however, they were able to meet patrons face to face, and give them tips on how to plant and grow their own tomatoes and peppers, something they and pantry organizers say will be a “growing” trend in the future.
Abfalter and Wetzel are master gardeners through the OSU Extension Greene County. Together they had 40 pepper plants to give away, and a comparable number of tomato plants. Pepper varieties included the California wonder, sweet banana, red mercury, Hungarian wax, jalapenos, and long cayenne. The tomato plants, however, were only one variety: bush beefsteak.
Each of these varieties are great for container gardening, Wetzel said. They can continue growing in a pot on one’s balcony or patio, and don’t necessarily have to be planted in the ground.
“You can do a lot of things with just containers,” she added.
Bill and Jane Doorley are managers of Fairborn FISH. Jane Doorley says that the patrons who received a plant often come back with stories about what they grew.
“A lot of them live in apartments, so to be able to be taught patio gardening is a beautiful thing,” she said.
Fairborn FISH had an uptick in services last year, serving half a million pounds of food to roughly 35,000 people. Jane Doorley says this is roughly 1.5 times the amount of people they’ve seen in previous years, primarily due to the economic upheaval caused by COVID-19.
“We saw an increase in single mothers, as well as our neighbors in the service industry,” Doorley said. “It was hard because we were seeing an increase of about ten families per day who had never been to a food pantry in their lives.”
Nonetheless, the Doorleys and their staff maintain a welcoming environment at the pantry, and for some, it’s become something of a community gathering place.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” she said.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.