Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are so fortunate to have a dedicated, passionate and all-around incredible staff and team of volunteers. One of these folks, whose job is integral to our goal of distributing fresh produce (in addition to shelf stable goods) to our neighbors, is Raina Ainslie, the manager of our Raised Bed Garden Program.
This dynamic program, which we’ve been overseeing since 2009, organizes 110 growing sites around Chester County that cultivate and donate fruits and veggies back to us. These sites, which include churches, schools, senior centers and corporations, tend to their own raised-bed gardens. The bounty harvested from these dedicated volunteers counts for 33 percent of the fresh produce we distribute throughout the year.
Raina has been with us since 2014, and is tasked with working with our host sites to set up their gardens and then to empower their volunteers through educational support. This is no small feat, and under her guidance, our garden partners were able to donate a whopping 40,000 pounds of produce to our partner food cupboards and agencies in 2016. Will they be able to top that number this year? Under Raina’s careful, enthusiastic watch, we’re betting they can.
In the midst of one of her busiest times of year at the Chester County Food Bank, Raina kindly took a few minutes out of her day to chat with us about her role and responsibilities as Raised Bed Garden Manager.
What does your day-to-day entail?
I coordinate with our partner gardens to provide material support such as seeds and seedlings. I also grow produce at the demonstration garden at Springton Manor, assist new sites with building their garden beds, and lead educational workshops on gardening.
How does your job change as the seasons change?
Spring, from March through May, is the busiest time of year. We’re starting seedlings in the greenhouse, preparing the garden for planting, coordinating with partner gardens to pick up their supplies, and getting everything in the ground.
In summer, June through September, it’s all about harvesting crops, and re-planting beds.
During the fall season, October through December, we continue to harvest and prepare the beds for winter dormancy.
What’s a challenging part of your job?
Battling critters that want to eat your crops! For example: groundhogs.
What’s a super rewarding part of your job?
I love connecting with gardeners and hearing their stories.
What are you excited about as gardening season approaches?
I look forward to greenhouse work at the beginning of the season, and to harvesting the rest of the year.
Thank you, Raina, for all you do to make our Raised Bed Garden program such a success!
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The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.