Growers with the Patchogue Community Garden donated 1,400 pounds of locally grown, pesticide-free produce last year to area families in need.
That was good enough for the most of any community garden in the county, according to the local group’s president, Diane Butler of Patchogue, who said the yields are tracked by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, which supports the projects.
Being top donator is no insignificant achievement, considering there are 32 Suffolk gardens listed on the Cornell website.
And the Patchogue gardeners are at it again this year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we pick more than that this season since the weather has been great this summer,” said fellow community gardener Eva Rodiguez-Greguski, also of Patchogue. “Warm temperatures have meant greater harvests of heat-loving vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini.”
Tuesday evening a half dozen growers gathered to pull veggies for The Congregational Church’s food pantry and soup kitchen.
Butler said about 4 1/2 beds are now dedicated solely to growing donations.
Rodiguez-Greguski and her husband, Byran Greguski, were on hand picking vegetables as well Tuesday, when 60 pounds were gathered.
The garden also grows for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Patchogue, and a pantry in Sayville.
Eva Rodiguez-Greguski — chief of staff to county Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), who sponsors a bed through a monetary donation along with other elected leaders and businesses — said the gardeners donate to any nonprofit groups that could use the vegetables, though it’s mostly churches that take them.
There’s never a preference as to which churches.
“Tomatoes are non-denominational,” Rodiguez-Greguski quipped.
Last year, the garden members, about 40 in all — though some beds are supported by group of people, such as the Madres Latinas — made the decision to dedicate entire beds to the food pantries, she said.
They’ve even recruited the help from other organizations, such as teen volunteers at the Patchogue-Medford Library and members of the Sons of Italy, to assist them in the weekly harvest for the needy, the gardeners said.
One night picking last month the group set a record of 150 pounds of vegetables for St. Paul’s.
“I love coming down here,” Butler said Tuesday night. “It’s my peace. You’re out in the sun. You feel better. And you’re with people with similar interests.”
“A lot of them can cook too,” Rodiguez-Greguski said.
The Patchogue Community Garden is open to anyone and is located behind the village Parks and Recreation center toward the end of Bay Avenue.
Email PatchogueCommunityGarden@gmail.com for more information.
Top photo: Diane Butler during Tuesday evening harvest for needy families.