Helping Hands garden puts quality produce into hands of HC people

Emma Helmich, one of the many volunteers at the Helping Hands Community Garden, harvests summer squash on Wednesday, Aug. 3, as the garden nears the end of its summer harvest. Fall planting is scheduled to begin this week.
Emma Helmich, one of the many volunteers at the Helping Hands Community Garden, harvests summer squash on Wednesday, Aug. 3, as the garden nears the end of its summer harvest. Fall planting is scheduled to begin this week. Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Aug. 8, 2016.

Huntington County residents, regardless of their financial situation, have access to farm stand-quality produce thanks to the Helping Hands Community Garden.

The Community Garden, under direction of the Huntington County Purdue Extension Office has harvested a successful summer crop of produce that is free and open to the public.

Summer harvest began in June, and residents still have a chance to pick up fresh summer crops like green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes.

The Community Garden has seen an increase in crop yield thanks mostly in part to the direction of Natalie Porter of the Purdue Extension Office.

Porter also emphasizes the amount of help she’s received from volunteers in the community who have worked to make the garden an ideal place for growing and harvesting produce.

“We have tried our best to make the garden a welcoming place and a place where people see that it’s thriving,” she says, “and they want to be a part of a successful enterprise.”

Volunteers plant and harvest the crops themselves and also weed and lay out plastic mulch. Older volunteers who may not be able to work in the garden can help by signing people in and weighing their produce, which Porter says is important for the Extension Office because the information on their crop yield helps them in applying for grants.

“Last year’s total, at the end of October, was 3,311 pounds of produce,” Porter says. “But to date, our total is at 4,530 pounds already. So we’re really having a great year.”

Charles Nelson, retired owner of Nelson’s produce stand, which used to be open on US.-24, has also been volunteering his knowledge and expertise. When the Community Garden invested in a drip irrigation system last year, Nelson stepped in to help manage it.
“It was very disorganized out here. There was no one to understand it or use it,” he says.

Nelson still applauds Porter on her organizational skills and keeping the garden run at the best productivity it can. He says that they are planting more and harvesting more compared to last year.

“Last year, at this time, we didn’t even have a tomato,” he says. “Now it’s a forest.

The Community Garden is located next to Huntington North High School on Viking Lane. Harvest times are Monday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon. Harvest season ends on Oct. 31.