MOMS Clubs everywhere love to find service projects that kill several birds with one stone. What can we do that will have a big impact on the local community, involves both moms and kids, teaches something meaningful to the kids, and is still a lot of fun? The MOMS Club of Astoria, OR, managed to hit all of these buttons with a simple but powerful idea: a carrot garden.

12109149_1095125613839960_2556672100419186421_nThe Carrot Garden was started in 2011 because the chapter was looking for a service project to help their local Food Bank. The board went to Clatsop County Food Bank asking for ideas, and they suggested starting a garden in the Food Bank’s backyard. Carrots were the chosen vegetable – they grow well in Oregon’s rainy, cold weather; they store well; and are well liked by families in the Food Bank program. The Food Bank worked with Home Depot to convert their backyard and to collect garden supplies; the carrot seeds were donated by a local garden and feed store.

12032514_10203547539969409_1544455849_nThe MOMS Club chapter works at the Carrot Garden throughout the year. They do the planting in the spring, they thin the garden in the summer, and then harvest in the fall (in between, the Food Bank waters the garden as needed). Harvesting is the biggest job of all! Moms and kids need to pull all carrots from the ground, tear off the tops, wash all the dirt off the carrots and box them for distribution. Over the years they’ve gotten more efficient in their harvesting; in the early years, the washing step involved scrubbing carrots in outdoor sinks with cold water (sometimes in the chilly rain!). Now, one of the Food Bank employees has invented a carrot washer by drilling holes in a cement mixer – with a high-pressure hose, they can wash dozens of carrots at a time!

12025344_10203547540689427_780275667_nInvolving the kids in the Carrot Garden has been a great part of the project! The entire garden is fenced in, so it keeps all the kids safe while they help out. The Food Bank employees give the kids rides in the wagon pulled by a tractor (what kid doesn’t love a tractor ride??) And the kids get to learn about how each of them can help provide food to those might not be able to afford it themselves. It’s a great lesson to learn, and it’s been great fun for the kids.

So, how has the Carrot Garden done? Incredibly well! In 2014 the carrot garden had its best year ever, with over 5,000 pounds of carrots collected for the Food Bank. In 2015, dry weather took its toll, but they still collected 3,400 pounds of carrots for needy families in the community. What an impressive haul!

11990674_10207515821080628_1444868977425249532_nColleen, the President of the MOMS Club of Astoria, has a few words of advice for chapters looking to find their own service project:

1) If you want to start a garden like we did, go to your local food bank. Most are run mainly from volunteers — if a group of volunteers like a MOMS Club ask how to help, it would make their day.

2) Pick something your club needs to be passionate about. All of our members love our carrot garden and love how it positively impacts our community. Pick a project that’s close to your club’s heart!

3) If you don’t know what to do – just ask! Start asking your community, parks and recreation, town hall, libraries, or state parks with what they might need help with. The Clatsop County Food Bank gave us the idea in the first place – the more organizations you ask, the easier it will be to find an idea that suits your clubs needs and what they want in a service project.