Cultivating Community at the Southern Maryland Food Bank’s Garden

by Foster Dennin | May 16, 2024

The Seeds of Hope Community Garden at the Southern Maryland Food Bank got a makeover this spring with new fencing and layout that will enhance the garden’s capacity to grow fresh produce for those in need.

Thanks to a generous donation from George Bumbray, a Washington, D.C., native, new fencing expanded the size of the garden, provided new protection for the plants and allowed for a new layout that will increase the garden’s yield.

Established in 2016, the Seeds of Hope Community Garden has been an integral part of the food bank’s approach to fighting food insecurity in Southern Maryland. Over the years, the garden has produced over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce, with 573 pounds harvested last year.

Since 2019, a group of 10 Charles County master gardeners from the University of Maryland Extension program has overseen the garden. Head gardener Brent Burdick helps to coordinate the activities of the volunteers to ensure the garden thrives.

The master gardeners work to update the community garden.

“At the Southern Maryland Food Bank, our team of master gardeners and interns demonstrate home gardening techniques, conduct outreach learning opportunities to youth and other activity groups, and provide fresh produce to the food bank,” Burdick said. “We have increased harvests from the garden each year, and we all find it so rewarding to be able to help this valuable community program.”

The garden showcases a selection of crops, including potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, rosemary, basil, kale, tomatillo, cucumbers, okra, green beans, peppers, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe, eggplant, mint, spring onions, spinach, squash and zucchini. The diversity of plants guarantees a plentiful yield throughout the growing season. The resulting produce is used by the food bank’s Meals & Hope Food Truck and is made available at the food bank’s pantry.

The community garden is also an educational resource for the community. Interactive sessions on gardening and healthy eating are conducted for school children, advocating for a healthy lifestyle and fostering a passion for gardening.

“The garden is a valuable tool for us,” said George Mattingly, food bank and outreach services manager. “It’s a great way to help educate people of all ages on the value of gardening and the importance of eating healthy, too.”

Community members and groups can schedule garden tours and other gardening learning activities by calling Monica Bumbray, outreach coordinator, at 301-274-0695. To learn more about volunteering at the food bank or making a donation, visit the food bank’s web page.