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7:54 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

'Growing' support to help feed the hungry

Salina Sialega/<br>Special to the Courier<br><br/>Gail Sime, right, and Ellen Plaugher prepare a strawberry plant for transplanting for the Harvest 10 food program.

Salina Sialega/<br>Special to the Courier<br><br/>Gail Sime, right, and Ellen Plaugher prepare a strawberry plant for transplanting for the Harvest 10 food program.

A group of Southern Baptists, through the Harvest program in 2008, grew and gave hungry Chino Valley-area residents about four tons of vegetables.

Ed Albus, Harvest program coordinator, said the group hopes to raise and give away 12 tons of vegetables this year to the area's hungry.

He got the idea for the Harvest program after the Yavapai Baptist Association bought five acres at the corner of Road 1 South and Road 1 East. Eventually, a new Summit Church will call the site home.

Albus, who is a member of that church, said members of the Willow Hills First Southern Baptist Church and First Southern Baptist Church of Chino Valley also helped with the Harvest program in 2008.

The site for the new church had three greenhouses that were subleased to a landscaping supply company. However, after the economy weakened, the company left town, and the greenhouses sat empty.

In February 2009, Albus got a group of people together to talk about the economy and where the churches were going. "We all agreed many members of the community needed extra help," he said.

He then got permission from the Yavapai Baptist Association to use the site and one acre that Tim Coury owns across Highway 89 from Pizza Hut to grow vegetables to give away.

In 2009, volunteers did all the farming. The land didn't get prepared correctly, but the group still raised about four tons of vegetables. This year, Coury is allowing the program to use the land for free, and he leveled it and got the irrigation going.

Albus said they plan to raise tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, sweet corn, melons, cabbage, cauliflower, beans and more in the field. This year, he said the group also plans to fix up the three greenhouses and use them to grow some vegetables.

With planting season arriving, Albus is looking for 30 volunteers. Children under 18 must have an adult working with them.

So far this year, Albus said:

• Bonnie Plant Farm in Chino Valley has donated seed and peat moss.

• World Hunger has donated $3,250.

• Willow Hills First Southern Baptist Church has donated $500.

• Yavapai Baptist Association has donated $1,000.

• Willoughby's Compost in Chino Valley has donated compost.

Albus is still looking for two rototillers and potting soil for the greenhouses.

Some of the money donated, he said, will go to pay for two of the big costs in raising vegetables: irrigation and electricity.

Albus said their workdays started last Saturday. Volunteers helped prepare a greenhouse so they can put new plastic on it, planted some vegetable seeds to grow young plants in the greenhouses for transplant into the field later, and picked up some plants that are ready to transplant into larger containers.

From now through October, Harvest volunteers will work at one of the sites from 8 a.m.-noon each Saturday. From June through October, volunteers will pick food to give away. People can pick up vegetables at 4:30 p.m. each Saturday from June through October at the First Southern Baptist Church parking lot.