It’s hard to miss the 50 painted flower pots located around Port Washington, each with a unique, intricate design and overflowing with fresh plants. These pots are part of the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign, which seeks to provide those in the community who have inadequate food supplies with fresh, nutritious produce. As Marvin Makofsky, chief vegetable garden executive for Plant a Row in Port Washington, explained, people often donate nonperishable goods to the hungry, but it is rare to hear about families in need receiving healthy vegetables to eat. For this reason, Makofsky brought the idea of Plant a Row to Port Washington six years ago. Originally, the program was set to encourage people to donate excess produce they had grown in their gardens, but the painted planters that are now visible all around Port Washington have become a part of the campaign this year.
Each painted pot is carefully decorated by local artists, requiring five to 10 hours of effort to create. While some of these pots are decorated by previously established artists, many are painted by younger residents, including local Girl Scout troops. This allows for children throughout Port Washington to be educated about the messages of Plant a Row, providing food to the hungry and also promoting the artistic talents of local residents.
The education of children is crucial to Plant a Row’s success, as the kids who learn about the program then encourage their parents to get involved. Mike Donnelly of the Port Washington Children’s Center explained that by teaching kids about the importance of gardening, they can learn that, “your dinner can be in your backyard.” In order to learn this lesson, Plant a Row has reached out to various facilities, including the Children’s Center as well as local synagogues and churches, so that they may educate children and even provide them with their own small, individual planters that they may bring home in hopes of encouraging them to start their own garden with their families. Plant a Row has already engaged over 950 local children. Plant a Row expects that they will use this knowledge to educate their families and continue donating throughout their lives.
Much of the food donated to Plant a Row comes from people with gardens who have produced more food than they can consume. However, the painted pots located around town produce vegetables that can also be donated. Local business owners have shown an increased initiative in caring for and managing these small gardens, and the people who work at these facilities harvest and donate their produce to Bayles Garden Center, at 88 South Bayles Ave. Bayles Garden Center is equipped with a refrigeration system to keep the donated produce fresh. Bayles can also assist people with learning how to garden organically as well as what vegetables should be planted. John Lamberti of Bayles explained, “any food really is accepted, whatever can be given.”
Port residents have certainly been donating, as over 6,500 pounds of fresh produce have been contributed to Plant a Row in the last two years. This produce is picked up by a team of 13 members who then distribute the donated food to places in Port Washington that have a connection to families who have demonstrated need.
Business owners who want to get involved in Plant a Row’s program by purchasing a painted pot can order one at Bayles Garden Center for $90. Each pot comes with soil and vegetable seedlings and is fully decorated by Port Washington artists, who are encouraged by Makofsky to “paint from the heart.” Others can become involved in Plant a Row by simply donating extra produce.
So what’s next for Plant a Row of Port Washington? Makofsky explained that he has been working on a map that will display all the locations of the painted planters. Based on these maps, people can go on walking tours of the town and discover the beauty of each planter, as well as learn what facilities in Port Washington are working with Plant a Row. Makofsky hopes to garner more attention from places in Port Washington that have yet to purchase painted pots, and continually encourages anyone with a home garden to donate as much as possible.