TERRE HAUTE —
There’s something about watching a zucchini go from seedling to soup that is satisfying for Jean Diemer.
She and the other volunteers at the St. Patrick’s soup kitchen in Terre Haute depend on the many pounds of fresh vegetables donated each week by the Wabash Valley Master Gardeners Association from their Giving Garden at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
Along with zucchini, the gardeners harvest cabbage, green beans, broccoli, potatoes and various other foodstuff — hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each week.
Diemer has the satisfaction of having planted some of the crops that are now finding their way to the St. Pat’s kitchen, and to other soup kitchens and food pantries around Vigo County.
“A lot of people will not eat zucchini, but they don’t know it’s in this soup,” she said, chuckling about the homemade soups that are served to dozens of people each day through the soup kitchens of the St. Patrick’s and St. Benedict’s churches.
Green peppers, kale, even turnips might get an upturned nose if dished up fresh from the garden.
But boxes of the fresh vegetables are welcomed by the soup kitchen volunteers as they prepare daily meals throughout the year.
Last Wednesday, the master gardeners harvested 279 pounds of vegetables, added to more than 1,500 pounds picked during a two-week period.
Last year, the harvest totaled 22,563 pounds for the growing season. This year, the gardeners are on track for a 25,000-pound season.
“That’s a lot of picking. That’s a lot of vegetables. But the need is very great,” said Greg Fields, chairman of the Giving Garden, located in a remote area of the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds. The garden is now fenced to protect it from wildlife and trespassing vandals. It also has a new sign, and a passive solar greenhouse is being built so that Bibb lettuce can be grown in the winter.
The need for fresh vegetables is greater this year than in the past, according to Fields. The master gardeners are sharing their harvest with 14 different soup kitchens and food pantries this year; last year, they only delivered to three locations.
The Giving Garden is full of life. This year, the gardeners put out 668 tomato plants, along with 480 sweet potatoes, 195 broccoli, 190 heads of cabbage and 220 eggplants. There are also peppers, squash, zucchini and cucumbers. About 150 pounds of seed potatoes were planted, and as an experiment, a row of cabbages was planted as companion plants between the hills of potatoes, to economize space.
The garden also has 24 rows of sweet corn, as well as squash and gourds.
“Before we plant anything new, I talk to the soup kitchens and see what they will use,” Fields told the Tribune-Star during a recent tour of the garden.
The garden has moved into its third week of harvest and it will keep producing into October.
“We will put up a hoop frame to do cold weather planting and more cold crops,” Fields said.
There are 14 volunteers signed up to help with the garden, and 12 are regularly at the garden to tend the plants and harvest ripened produce.
The volunteers have gone through an extensive master gardeners class.
Diemer completed her training with the Vigo County group this past spring, and is now working on the required community service hours.
She has her own garden in her back yard, where she enjoys working with her husband, Jim, and with their two grandchildren. The Diemers moved to Terre Haute from the Cincinnati area more than a year ago, to be near family. At her previous home, she had no sunny place for a garden. But her current lot has enough space for not only a big garden spot, but also a herb garden, a butterfly garden and a couple of fairy gardens.
“As they say, I live in the garden, and I just sleep in the house,” she said.
The Diemers’ home is close to Dobbs Park, and a lot of wildlife. So to keep the deer from eating her crop, she enlisted the help of some neighbors — three Indiana State University students — in putting up a tall fence.
Now safe from furry “predators,” the garden boasts bunches of sugar snap peas, raspberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, tomatoes and other fresh produce, as well as a goldfish pond and a tall patch of sunflowers.
When her grandchildren visit, the veggies they harvest don’t usually make it back to the kitchen before they are devoured. And that’s okay with Diemer. Her grandchildren are eating healthy, organic, home-grown food.
That is how Diemer sees the offerings at the soup kitchen, as well.
St. Pat’s and St. Ben’s churches together served about 6,000 meals last month. The food served at St. Ben’s is prepared at St. Pat’s, which has a commercial kitchen.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Diemer said of the volunteer work in the soup kitchen.
A diverse group of people stop in daily for meals, she said. A few are homeless. Many have jobs but after they pay their living expenses, they have no money left over to feed themselves or their families.
“And, you don’t have to be in need,” she said. “You just come and eat.”
One person who visits the kitchen is a widow who doesn’t want to eat alone. Another person is handicapped, but does small tasks to be useful. Many of the faces peeking in the door, waiting for the signal to enter the dining area, are elementary-age children, who miss their daily school lunch while they’re on summer break.
“The people are wonderful, and they’re more than willing to help,” Diemer said of those eating at the soup kitchen. In return, the volunteers like to provide fresh salad, a bowl of soup and a piece of bread to each person. There is also a take-home sack meal provided to each visitor.
“We couldn’t do it without the Giving Garden,” Diemer said.
Donations of leftover bread, desserts and other items are also received from businesses and individuals who want to help.
Last fall, the soup kitchen benefited when the Sisters of Providence made a large amount of applesauce from the apples remaining in their orchard.
“We don’t waste anything,” Diemer said of the abundance of fresh produce that comes in. “Whatever we get, we use.”
Last week the kitchen received 15 heads of cabbage. It was all processed and the visitors had fresh cole slaw. There are also plans to preserve some of the fresh produce by canning it, for use during the winter months.
Even though she only works at the soup kitchen one day per week, Diemer said she feels blessed to know that hungry people benefit daily from the healthy produce from the Giving Garden.
Diemer said she believes the volunteers get back more than they give.
“I’ll do almost anything not to miss a Monday,” she said.
For more information about the Wabash Valley Master Gardeners Association and the Giving Garden, go online to www. wvmga.org.
For more information about the St. Patrick’s soup kitchen at 1807 Poplar St., go online to the church website at www.saintpat.org. The soup kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
Master Gardeners set to cultivate more than 25,000 lbs. for donation
TERRE HAUTE —
There’s something about watching a zucchini go from seedling to soup that is satisfying for Jean Diemer.
- Local & Bistate
Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25
Local musical collective Lunes Domingo will be back at The Verve on Friday, July 25, to perform the last installment of their 2014 series. Cost is $3.
West T Water Works issues boil order
The West Terre Haute Water Works announced this morning that a boil order is in effect until further notice for the community of West Terre Haute and Sugar Creek Township.
Grease fire closes Terre Haute restaurant for short time
A grease fire closed the Golden Corral for about three hours on Wednesday.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 24, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Bloomington helping with beer brewery’s project
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The city of Bloomington is helping a beer brewery with an expansion of its downtown restaurant and bar.
Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks
PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren’t achieved without taking chances.
A trade, a home up for sale
The first house constructed in “The Trades” subdivision now has a “for sale” sign in the front yard.
Health care provider details 150 job cuts
The reduction of 150 employees in Union Health System by the end of this year will come from support staff, employees who do not have direct patient-care duties, hospital administrators said Wednesday.
MARK BENNETT: Giving new voice to Ehrmann’s words
Max Ehrmann’s bronze face may break into a grin soon.
SCHOOL BOARD: Incumbents each seek next term
As expected, four Vigo County School Board incumbents filed for re-election Wednesday.
Making his case to the people
Indiana state treasurer hopeful Mike Boland says that if elected, he intends to be a “small-city, small-town state treasurer.”
Union Hospital cuts to come from support staff
The reduction of 150 employees in Union Health System by the end of this year will come from support staff, employees who do not have direct patient care duties, hospital administrators said today.
Ex-employee says prison workers had sex on desk
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana’s prison agency mistreated a female employee when it shrugged off her complaints about workers having sex on her desk and later fired her for having an affair with an official.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 23, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on jail records.
Police say 2 killed in SW Indiana murder-suicide
BICKNELL, Ind. (AP) — Police say a man was fatally shot during an argument in a southwestern Indiana town and that the suspected gunman later killed himself while officers were pursuing him.
10-year-old bicyclist dies after truck hits him
WINONA LAKE, Ind. (AP) — Police in northern Indiana say a 10-year-old boy died after being hit by a pickup truck while riding a bicycle.
Photo Essay: Flowers & Nature
Ella Boyles, 3, watches as her grandmother Verdeana Boyles starts a flower arrangement during the JMG! Jammin! Muddin! & Growin! Jr. Master Gardener Program on Tuesday at the west branch of the Vigo County Public Library in West Terre Haute.
Study finds school scores rising — poverty too
While Vigo County’s educational scores outperform the state average, schools are seeing the impact of an increase in the number of children living in poverty, according to the national Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 “Kids Count.”
No more teacher-led prayer in Vigo schools
As the result of a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Vigo County School Corp. teachers and other staff will no longer be able to lead prayers during school-sponsored events.
Vigo school board candidate filing period begins today
Four of seven Vigo County School Board seats are up for election this year.
Six hurt in pickup crash on I-70
An accident on Interstate 70 that injured six people Tuesday afternoon is being attributed to mechanical failure.
Cops know where hoax call came from — next is who made it
Police have identified the location from which a bomb threat was made and mentioning The Meadows shopping center.
Parties fill openings on fall ballots
The face of the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election has changed slightly after a July 15 deadline for major parties to nominate candidates and independent candidates to file for positions that were left vacant after the May primary election.
Motorcyclist critical from head trauma after crashing bike
A Vigo County man remained hospitalized Tuesday in critical condition following a motorcycle accident on Monday evening.
Greene County woman dies from motorcycle wreck injuries
A Linton woman has died as the result of a motorcycle crash on Monday in Greene County on Indiana 157 north of Worthington.
Man whose body found in trailer identified; how he died still undetermined
The body discovered inside a trailer in Montgomery County last month has been identified as a man whose last known address was in Clinton.
Vigo schools miss out on preschool programs for low-income students
Vigo County schools were not selected, but schools in Indiana’s three most populous counties were among five chosen for a pilot program that will allow low-income children in those areas to attend preschool as early as next year.
Drowning confirmed as cause of death at Raccoon Lake
A Veedersburg man has died after resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful after his drowning Monday at Raccoon Lake in Parke County.
WTH house fire under investigation
No injuries were reported in a West Terre Haute house fire that is under investigation.
Body found in trailer identified as Vermillion County man
Authorities have identified the person whose body was discovered last month in a trailer that had recently been moved from Vermillion County. Indiana State Police, using DNA testing, identified the body as that of Shane L. Sowers, 41, whose last known address was on North Sixth Street in Clinton
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25