If your community garden had a successful year, many of your community plots might be up to their ears in things like zucchini, squash, pumpkins, and tomatoes — high producing plants that are wonderful to eat. Unfortunately, a family of four or five can only eat so many zucchinis before the kids start to mutiny. If your community garden is supporting a wealth of produce, and you don’t want it all to go to waste, here are a few ideas to help you all keep up with the harvest, and maybe even grow your community just a little bit:
Host a Harvest Party
If your community garden’s season is growing to a close, consider having a harvest party or festival — and invite everyone. From garden members to the general public, the more people you can get, the more produce you’ll send to good homes. Your harvest party doesn’t have to be elaborate, you can invite people to pick their own pumpkins, and have a few community members bring cider and donuts.
Pro Tip: This is also a great way to get everyone in the garden community together to winterize the beds, and clean up the common areas for winter. People will do anything for donuts, and you’re guaranteed a better winterization with more hands on deck.
Share the Wealth
If your community garden isn’t quite ready for a party with the public yet, just set up a simple trading and sharing station. Ask gardeners to leave their extra produce in one specific area, and encourage everyone to take what they want. Choose one day a week to have a volunteer take some of the leftover produce to a local food drive. If your gardeners aren’t using the produce, it should go to someone who can! Just make sure the work of taking produce to the food drive is shared. You don’t want one person to become resentful if they feel they’re the only one helping out on the food sharing effort.
Set up a Vegetable Stand
A vegetable stand is an easy way to get rid of extra produce, and it can potentially earn your community garden a little bit of money. The stand need not be managed, just encourage people who stop by to make a donation, or attach a sign with suggested prices to your stand, and set out a cash box or jar. Though it might sound risky, if it’s produce you didn’t want anyway, it won’t hurt anyone too much if the money goes missing. Have a community member collect from the jar regularly, just to be on the safe side.
Have a Community Potluck Night
Get your community garden members together, and use up some of those extra veggies with a community potluck night! A great way to celebrate the season’s success, and learn a bit more about the people you garden with, a potluck night is fun, and a no pressure way to get the community together. Ask each guest to bring a dish, preferably one that uses produce from the garden, and delight in everyone’s hard work.
Get Cooking and Canning!
If all else fails, the absolute best way to make the most of your community garden’s fall harvest is to use it. Cook what you can eat, and can or pickle the rest. You’d be amazed at how many recipes there are for cooking with the fall harvest, and you can pickle or can nearly anything. Canning also ensures you have plenty of produce for the coming winter, helping ease the pressure of those winter grocery budgets.
For a bit of a challenge this fall, you might consider fermenting some of your leftover produce. Fermentation is an ancient method of preserving food that’s been around for centuries, and it’s easier than you’d think. Bonus: you can create some really delicious, surprising combinations that really brighten up a winter day. Here’s an easy starter guide to fermentation.
In the end, there are plenty of ways to use up your community garden’s fall harvest. Whether you’re getting together with friends and neighbors or learning to can in your own kitchen, a community garden can bring much joy.
If you’ve been looking for a home near a community garden, check out High Hickory. A sustainable mountain living community in the mountains of Asheville, NC, High Hickory has a number of gorgeous properties and lots available, and of course our own expansive community garden! Check out our gallery, request more information online, or give us a call at 866-936-5263, we’re happy to help you find your next peaceful home in the mountains!