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Rose Tree Community Garden helping out the hungry

By Kathleen E. Carey
Delco Daily Times

UPPER PROVIDENCE — Mark Snyder of Springfield and former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Joe Watson had their afternoon planned out for Sunday.

The two were scheduled to hack through an abandoned plot at the Rose Tree Community Garden, where the duo have adjacent 20-foot-by-25-foot squares, to transform it into a bounty for Philabundance.

Standing before the knee-high weeds interspersed with corn stalks Friday, Snyder pronounced, “Weed this, thin it out and give this corn to people who need it.”

That’s what Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, wants from area gardeners: Their produce.

Since 1993, the nonprofit has collected homegrown fruit and vegetables through its Share the Harvest campaign to share with people in need.

This year, produce donations to Philabundance have decreased 45 percent because of a harsh winter in the South, the Chilean earthquake and the rise in fuel prices.

Philabundance is asking local gardeners to dig into their rows and give what they can toward the cause.

Snyder has been participating in Share the Harvest for about five years.

“If you’ve ever been hungry, you know it’s not a pleasant thing,” the 67-year-old said. “There should be no one hungry in the United States.”

He’s even conscripted his grandchildren.

Wanting to share a love of gardening he cultivated from his mom, Rose, Snyder dedicated one of his two plots as exclusively “The Grandkids’ Garden.”

There, Jake, Sam and Asher Snyder, Janie and Olivia Packman and Dylan Feher have planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplant next to a variety of flowers.

“I furnish the plants,” Snyder said. “They furnish the labor.”

Watching Jake cup his hands into the earth, Snyder laughingly said, “He can dig to China with that hole.”

“Can you get the seeds?” the 6-year-old asked his grandfather.

When asked what he thought about sharing the harvest with the needy, the boy summed it up in one word: “Cool.”

For Snyder, it’s easy to load the extra bounty with the Philabundance collection crews who come out to the garden every Saturday.

“When the harvest comes in, it’s usually more than anybody could use,” he said. “You’d be surprised how much each tomato plant produces. We have plenty of tomatoes and peppers.”

Steve Dalton, the Rose Tree gardener who helped initiate the program there, said about 3,000 of the 10,850 pounds collected last year through Share the Harvest came from the Upper Providence site.

“I think it’s so important that you … should give back,” he said.

The Prospect Park resident said he came close to experiencing the other side of the program when he was given two months’ notice about his Boeing job in February.

“It did hit home to realize that you could be out in the street,” Dalton said.

Fortunately for him, he obtained another web design and shipping position at the Ridley company.

But, the lesson learned was indelibly etched in his memory and he hopes to encourage others to give from their personal patches, too.

“It’s not just people from the garden who donate,” Dalton said, sitting inside the bamboo structure he’s constructed around his peppers, lime basil and loofa. “Just a little extra can go a long way to help people in need.”

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