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Port Family Grows Produce For The Needy

An update from the co-chair of Port Plant a Row for the Hungry

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While many people who move to Port Washington turn their yards into beautiful flower gardens, the Birnbaums are a bit different. They created something of a farm in their over one acre backyard and are befitting the community.

Jennifer and Matthew Birnbaum, along with their three boys, Chase 5, Holden 3, and Flint, 1, moved to Port Washington from New York City to raise their kids and develop an elaborate organic vegetable and flower garden.

Jennifer came from an avid gardening family, but while living in New York City she mainly worked container-sized gardens, and also gave a great deal of time working in local soup kitchens. She and her husband Matthew shared the goal of making a difference to Port, a community that they quickly learned to love, and sought ways to help parts of the community in need.

It all came together when they got involved with the Port Plant-A-Row for the Hungry Program, at the annual Harborfest. The Birnbaums were immediately attracted to the program, which encourages local gardeners to deliver their excess produce to Bayles Garden Center, from which an organized team of volunteers delivers the produce to outreach programs at local churches and synagogues. This program delivers to hundreds of people in Port Washington.

“I feel very lucky to have found this program,” Jennifer Birnbaum says. “It’s great to know doing something I love benefits people in my community.”

Jennifer and Matthew develop most of their plants from seed purchased from specialty firms located throughout the USA. When the harvest is over, they turn much of the seed from the plants to expand their crops for the following season.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Birnbaum family garden effort is how their children are totally immersed in the day-to-day activity of gardening, which includes weeding. It is remarkable to witness the level of enthusiasm of these kids, plus they love to eat just about everything that is grown.

For the past two years since they moved to Port, there have been frequent family trips to the Bayles Garden Center in Port Washington, to deliver hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. The kids are continually reminded that this food is intended for families in need, who cannot afford the produce. This act of generosity is learned at a very young age.

Teaching children to participate with their parents to grow organically fresh produce, to consume it and to deliver the excess to the needy is the fundamental goal of the Port Plant-A-Row Program. The Port Community is encouraged to place large pots of vegetables, along with flowers, in public places as a reminder that the need is great for everyone to participate.

This year there are five 24-inch vegetable planters located at Port Jewish Center, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Peter of Alcantara Church, the Lutheran Church of Our Savior and the Port Washington Children’s Center. The produce from these planters is delivered to local outreach programs.