With peak harvest time rapidly approaching, the list of produce that already has emerged from the community garden at the Philbrook Museum of Art is an impressive one -- 2,100 pounds as of the end of August, according to garden manager Melinda McMillan.
"And we've got two to three more months of harvesting to do," she said. "We're cautiously optimistic we're going to hit two tons ... We'll keep harvesting until the plants give out."
For the past two summers, McMillan has overseen the garden, a project the museum undertook in conjunction with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to supplement that organization's offerings. Budget reductions did not allow museum officials to plant their 3,600-square-foot south formal garden in the summer of 2009, so they opted to make it a vegetable garden and do something to help feed the area's hungry population.
The first year of the program was such a success, museum officials decided to do it again this year. McMillan said the results have been very satisfying, generating a wide variety of produce for the Food Bank -- Brussels sprouts, corn, peppers, eggplant, okra, green beans, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons and pumpkins.
"The Brussels sprouts are new, and they're doing great," she said. "We'll be planting those again for the fall in September, along with our lettuces, spinach, onions and mustard greens."
McMillan said the Philbrook board already has approved the idea of planting another spring garden next year before the space is converted back to a flower garden for the summer.
"Hopefully, the board will go for a spring vegetable garden each year," she said.
The fruits and vegetables grown at the Philbrook are a boon to the Food Bank, according to Cindy Stevens, the organization's director of community relations.
"Fresh produce is like gold to us," she said.
Even though the growing season is coming to an end in Oklahoma, she hopes others will follow the lead of the museum next spring.
"We encourage everybody to plant a little extra in their garden every year and donate the extra to their local food pantry," she said. "I know from my own experience you can only eat so much zucchini."
McMillan said the Food Bank organizes the volunteer harvesters for the program, sending out six to seven people a week to pick fresh produce. That's been going on since June and will continue through October, she said.
"They've been really responsive," McMillan said. "They do all the harvesting for us. It's been great. We can just concentrate on the growing."
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