Grow to Give: A Guide to Creating Community Service Gardens

Filed under: Around Town,News |

Bethany ChurchThe Long Island Community Agriculture Network is urging religious congregations and other organizations to plant vegetable gardens on their property to feed Long Island’s hungry people. To assist them, LICAN has issued Grow to Give: A Guide to Creating Community Service Gardens, available as a free download  from its website,

“Less than 10% of the food donated to Long Island food banks consists of the healthiest food–fresh vegetables and fruit,” said Frances Cerra Whittelsey, who wrote the guide in collaboration with Lawrence Foglia and Heather Forest . The three are co-founders of LICAN.

“Building and cultivating a Grow to Give vegetable garden brings peoples of all ages together, connects them with nature, and fulfills the moral obligation to feed the hungry”, continued Whittelsey. “A garden can be the foundation of a wellness program or a cooperative project for any kind of service organization or business.”

The 48-page Guide is based on LICAN’s experience last year assisting 10 religious congregations to create organic vegetable gardens as sources of donations to food banks and local food pantries. Collectively, the new gardens yielded more than a ton of fresh vegetables for donation to the needy.

Volunteers from the participating congregations planted, cultivated and harvested the vegetables, in most instances on their own grounds.  LICAN provided expert mentors to some of the congregations so they would achieve success quickly. In addition to the Guide, the LICAN website also includes a short video featuring some of the congregational gardens.

With funding support from the Long Island Community Foundation and the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund, LICAN provided educational workshops for congregational leaders and trained mentors to assist in the implementation of the gardens.

Experienced mentors can now be hired by other organizations that need help starting Grow to Give gardens.

The comprehensive guide covers all aspects of starting a  garden, from organizing and attracting volunteers to picking a garden site, building raised beds, selecting the best vegetables for donation, organic remedies for pests and when and how to harvest.

The guide also relates the experiences of some of the service garden leaders and volunteers.

LICAN was founded in 2009 for the initial purpose of building a community garden in Huntington Station, called Gateway. LICAN manages Gateway and a donation garden in Greenlawn under license from the Town of Huntington. Other LICAN projects include an Eco-Literacy program for children conducted last year in collaboration with the Tri Community & Youth Agency and an educational mural project.

LICAN co-founders include Frances Cerra Whittelsey, an author, social activist with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, and a former consumer and investigative reporter for The New York Times and Newsday ; Lawrence Foglia, M.S., a natural resources consultant, environmental educator and farmer; and Heather Forest, Ph.D., a professional storyteller, educator, and farmer.

Based in Huntington, LICAN is fiscally sponsored by the non-profit Open Space Institute, a land conservation organization that also acts as a fiscal umbrella for small volunteer organizations under its Citizen Action Program. Donations to LICAN are fully tax-deductible.

For Further Information: Frances Whittelsey (; 347-463-8890

Heather Forest (; (631) 987-5450

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