Planting seeds to end hunger |

Planting seeds to end hunger

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Seeds provided by Botanical Interests are provided for free to gardeners in the Roaring Fork Valley. The gardeners donate a portion of their bounty to help feed the hungry in the Plant a Row to End Hunger program. / Kim Doyle Willie courtesy photo

Scores of gardeners in the Roaring Fork Valley are planting vegetable seeds this month not only with visions of feeding themselves kale, potatoes, green beans and the like but also feeding others.

The gardeners are participating in the Plant a Row to End Hunger program. It’s unique to the Roaring Fork Valley though similar to programs elsewhere in the country.

“We’ve got our 100 gardeners that have planted already,” said Kim Doyle Wille, an El Jebel resident and advocate of programs to help the poor and hungry. She organized the Plant a Row effort.

“Many of them are planting majorly for us,” she said.

There are enough seeds for at least another 100 gardeners, so she’s recruiting additional participants. Botanical Interests, of Broomfield, provided the free, organic, non-genetically modified herb and vegetable seeds.

Volunteers plant the seeds in their own gardens and donate a portion of the bounty come harvest time. They don’t have to literally plant a row with the free seeds. They can mix and match the seeds for foods they intend to donate with their own.

Other volunteers are maintaining 12 garden plots donated to Plant a Row to End Hunger in midvalley towns. Wille said she has 300 starter plants in her house that will be transplanted in those gardens. She’s growing everything from broccoli and eggplant to peppers and tomatoes. She sets flats of vegetables out on her porch each warm day and brings them in at night.

Wille relied on word-of-mouth about the program to sign up volunteers. The effort is being coordinated with the Roaring Fork Valley Food Council. The volunteers need contributions of soil amender, mulch and garden hoses to help prepare the plots.

Children, elderly and people who are confined to their residences will receive the fresh vegetables and herbs when gardens start producing. Nationwide, 19 million kids will go without one meal during the summer when free lunches aren’t provided at school, Wille said.

About 38 percent of 646 students at Basalt Elementary School in 2011 qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, according to, which uses public records to provide school information.

Plant a Row to End Hunger plans to get food to the needy by stocking the existing pantries in the valley and also distribute it in unique ways. “Sharing stands” will be set up at roadside points in the Roaring Fork Valley in late summer and fall. Producers can drop off a portion of their harvest; people who are in need and hungry can pick food up.

Wille and other organizers aim to make Plant a Row to End Hunger a sustainable program. They are building a website where producers can register where their gardens are located, how much watering was required for specific veggies and what yield they experienced. Growers also are urged to take photos or video of their efforts and then post to Facebook and other social-media sites with a description of what they are doing. It’s part of a grander effort to get more volunteers involved in growing food and making others aware of the hunger problems and solutions being sought.

Gardeners who want to participate can call Kim Doyle Wille at 970-704-9535 or email her at


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