Hershey Community Garden grows strong community ties

HERSHEY, Pa. — Hershey Community Garden surpassed its goal of donating a ton of vegetables to area nonprofit organizations this season.

Volunteer gardeners who cultivated the 225 raised-bed plots on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center donated more than 22,700 pounds of produce as of Oct. 9. They delivered the vegetables to nine food banks and other local agencies.

Opened in 2014, the Hershey Community Garden doubled in size this year with 100 new plots. Many of those new plots are dedicated to growing produce for donation.

“We were able to reach our goal because of all the rain and because of the generosity of our gardeners,” said Rick Stewart, garden co-manager. The garden averaged 1,000 pounds of produce during its initial years of operation, but once it was doubled in size, Stewart put out the one-ton challenge.

Gardeners placed produce for donation in one of two refrigerators in the garden tool shed, and volunteers stopped by each day to pick it up and deliver it to food pantries in Hershey, Hummelstown, Palmyra and Central Pennsylvania. Hope Lodge, Ronald McDonald House, Gemma's Angels and Communities that Care also received the excess garden bounty.

Other neighbors who enjoyed the garden’s bounty were animals at ZooAmerica. Tortoises, chuckwalla lizards and a green iguana enjoyed dark green, leafy vegetables, while striped skunks, the ringtails and coatis (both members of the raccoon family) and white-tailed deer were occasionally offered greens as a treat.

In addition, ZooAmerica staff brought animals to the garden one Saturday each month in June, July and August for casual interaction and education.

“It was very well received and those in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the event,” said Melissa Stradnick, communications manager for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company.

New this year was a dedicated flower garden. Volunteers collected vases and delivered 150 arrangements of fresh flowers to Country Meadows of Hershey.

The Hershey Community Garden is sponsored by Hershey Impact, a joint effort of The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Hershey Company, Milton Hershey School, The M.S. Hershey Foundation and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company.

The garden offers gardening demonstrations and other special events, such as National Honeybee Day, throughout the spring and summer. Stradnick said the committee would like to increase the number of programs presented next year.

Stewart said he enjoys watching how the garden is growing into more than a place for plants.

“A lot of different organizations are now starting to do community outreach out of the garden as well,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Plots for the next growing season are available for a suggested annual donation of $35. Learn more on the Hershey Community Garden website.

Last Updated October 17, 2018