Plant A Row celebrates the fruits of its labor

Plant A Row celebrates the fruits of its labor
Chief Vegetable Officer Marvin Makofsky, while wearing a corn hat, takes a photo of other Plant A Row participants adorned in their own produce-themed hats. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Adorned in produce-themed hats, dozens of people gathered Thursday to celebrate Plant A Row For the Hungry’s harvest at the Helen Keller Nation Center in Sands Point, marking 13 years of the fruits of their labor.

Plant A Row is a local organization that plants, grows, harvests and delivers produce to local families and community members in need. The organization was founded to address local issues of hunger through gardening. Since its foundation, it has donated over 57,000 pounds of locally grown and fresh produce.

The organization donates their food to Our Lady of Fatima in Port Washington, which then distributes the food to community members who are food insecure.

Plant a Row maintains 18 4-by-8 feet raised beds at the Adult Community Center, while the Helen Keller National Center contains about 1,000 square feet of garden space.

Marvin Makofsky, founder, board president and chief vegetable officer for the organization, said it tailors the produce grown to the tastes of the community members who receive it, like Roma tomatoes used in sauces.

Makofsky said the harvest event Thursday was a way to bring together the volunteers of Plant A Row, as well as community members and government officials.

He said more than 100 volunteers contribute to Plant A Row, but many of them have not met one another. This event was the perfect opportunity to change that.

“It becomes more of a family of volunteers,” Makofsky said. “It means everything.”

Benjamin Gordon, 17, is a student volunteer with Plant A Row, has been working with Plant A Row for a year and a half, saying that the experience thus far has been great and expanded his interest in gardening.

He said he was inspired to volunteer with Plant A Row at a harvest party akin to the one held Thursday for the organization last year.

Makofsky said the 2023 growing season has been fruitful. This year alone, Plant A Row is on track to donate several thousand pounds of fresh produce to the community, he said.

He said this was possible through expanding their gardens, such as the one at the Helen Keller Center, and in conjunction with home-grown produce donated by community members.

The Helen Keller National Center housed a small garden that was started by Helen Keller herself, who Makofsky said was a known horticulturist. Over time that small garden came to grow more weeds than vegetables, Makofsky said, so Plant A Row was invited to take it over.

The garden, which was  originally a small plot of land, has continuously been expanded by Plant A Row over the past two years.

The organization expanded its garden space at the Helen Keller National Center by about 50% in April.

The event brought together other community members involved in addressing the community’s food insecurity.

This included  Benjamin Gordon whose nonprofit Extra Cheese collaborates with local pizzerias to donate their leftover pizzas at the end of the day to individuals in need. Once or twice a week, families in Port Washington are able to sign up through his program to receive some of the excess pizza.

Also present was Jonathan Gold, 16, who co-founded with his brother Can You Help Too, a nonprofit that collects canned goods that are also donated to Our Lady of Fatima.

Jonathan works alongside Plant A Row, describing their relationship in a single word: “family.”

Makofsky encourages individuals to donate their home-grown food to Plant A Row to be donated with their produce. Individuals can donate their produce at the Bayles Garden Center at 88 South Bayles Ave. in Port Washington.

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