Try 3 months for $3

Lake Delton resident Mary Orlowski relishes the taste of vegetables harvested right from the ground, and she wants to share the experience with people who are less fortunate, so she started a

garden at the Country Bumpkin Farm Market this summer and is donating the excess vegetables to the local food pantry.

Orlowski is one of about seven people who started vegetable gardens at Country Bumpkin Farm Market off Highway P in Delton. The business is offering free plots, each about 400 square feet, to area residents. Country Bumpkin supplies the land, soil, fertilizer, water and mulch. Program participants bring their own seeds and provide the labor.

Most of the people participating are donating the produce to area churches or food pantries. Orlowski has already donated radishes and lettuce to the Central Wisconsin Community Action Food Pantry. Orlowski is growing chard, spinach, peas, beans, tomatoes, beets, potatoes and broccoli, too. Some of the food might also go to the pantry.

Kim McClelland, food pantry coordinator at CWCAC, said the fresh food is very welcome. In the past people have donated fresh foods from private gardens as well, she said.

“We’re very thankful for it,” she said.

The participants have staked signs bearing the name of the charitable organization that will benefit at the garden site. The Church of God in Reedsburg and Mountain Faith Church in Lake Delton are other organizations that will likely receive produce.

Country Bumpkin Farm Market owners Charlie and Cindy Rhinehart said they want to continue the program next summer. This summer the program started after Memorial Day. Most vegetables are mature. The 2009 program runs from May to October.

The Rhineharts offer advice on gardening that Orlowski can attest to.

“Charlie and Cindy have been really helpful when I’ve not understood what to do,” she said.

Orlowski lives in a condominium, and she said it’s been a long time since she planted anything other than container gardens.

She recommends the experience to others. “It’s a great way to enjoy gardening, and you get to contribute to people who aren’t as lucky as you are,” she said.

The timing for such an activity is right given the poor economy, she added.

Cindy said the program started for people who had an interest in gardening but maybe couldn’t do it because of poor soil or lack of space. Then it developed into a charitable giving project because she realized people would probably grow more food than they could eat.

“I like it. We want to continue doing that,” she said about providing the garden plots.

The mission statement states the advantages of the program: socializing, working the land and seeing hard work pay off. It also states: “Country Bumpkin’s intent with this project is to provide interested gardeners with an opportunity to grow and nourish their plants and souls with fellow gardeners in a community environment.”

Cindy said Country Bumpkin Farm Market is providing the garden plots even though other farm market owners she talks to feared it would hurt business. Cindy said the project isn’t causing customers to stop buying produce. It isn’t negatively impacting business, she said.

Charlie said the plots aren’t big enough to grow some foods, so they aren’t directly competing with the business.

Participants must sign a contract with Country Bumpkin that outlines a few rules for the program. Participants must get permission to apply pesticides for fertilizers. Vegetables must be harvested and plots cleaned up by Oct. 31. Plots are accessible to participants from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.