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Community Harvest Provides Fresh Produce to Oxford Food Pantry

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


Duncan Gray III, left, and Beckett Howorth were childhood friends who now work together to bring fresh produce each week to The Pantry in Oxford. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

The Oxford Community Garden started in 2009 as a way for local residents to grow fresh produce who didn’t have the room for a garden on their property or perhaps lived in an apartment building.

Located just behind the Old Armory Pavilion, the Community Garden – through its Community Harvest program – also helps provide fresh produce to folks who receive groceries from Oxford’s food bank, The Pantry.

Community Harvest is run by volunteers who work about 1,600-square feet of land, growing a wide variety of produce including tomatoes, okra, corn, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, greens, carrots and more.

Beckett Howorth and his wife Mary Hartwell got involved with Community Harvest in about 2015 after the trees at their Oxford home grew and blocked out the sun over their small vegetable garden.

Kathy Wachter loads up her car with fresh produce to bring to The Pantry on Tuesday. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

While Howorth heads up the program, he credits the several volunteers for working hard to keep it going each year.

“We have a few regular volunteers and we get help from the Community Garden at large when there is a big harvest,” Howorth said.

The gardeners harvest weekly and bring the produce to The Pantry on Tuesdays.

While the amount of produce delivered to The Pantry drops during the colder months, the gardeners continue to harvest for as long as they can before winter arrives.

Duncan Gray III got involved with Community Harvest just around the time COVID-19 arrived in the United States in March 2020. He wanted to garden, but also battled a lack of sustained sunshine on his property.

“I came out here one day to check it out and saw Beckett out here pulling turnips,” Gray said. “We grew up as kids in Oxford and then I moved away. We’d see each other from time to time but this program has rekindled that long friendship.”

Howorth said since Gray got involved with the program, the size and length of the harvest have expanded.

“Before Duncan joined us, this time of year we would have had everything put to sleep,” Howorth said. “By example, he makes us all work harder.”

The city of Oxford and the Community Garden provides the gardeners with straw, mulch and tools and other organic matter; however, the volunteers often spend some of their own money on growing produce for Community Harvest.

“I just love digging in the dirt,” Gray said. “There’s something about the rhythm of nature and the ebb and flow of earth, growth, life, death, rebirth. Sitting in the middle of that is a really important spiritual peace for me … another benefit of participating (in Community Harvest) is the production of fresh produce for those who need it.”

For more information, visit Oxford Community Garden’s website or email oxfordcga@gmail.com.

The Oxford Community Garden is located behind the Old Armory Pavilion. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

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