Community garden effort needs volunteers

A community garden is seeking volunteers to help plant, grow and harvest produce that will benefit Catawba County residents in need.

Catawba County HOPE, or Help Our People Eat, is gearing up for its third year of service in the community.

HOPE was created in 2010 by Christine Cofer, an employee in Catawba County’s finance department.

After being “really hesitant” when starting the program, Cofer’s project has seen stark growth.

Last year, the HOPE gardens harvested and delivered 5,071 pounds of vegetables and fruit, which was an increase of nearly 4,000 pounds from 2010.

This year, HOPE’s goal is to reach 6,000 pounds, Cofer said.

“The first year it was basically myself and my youth. Last year, I had between 100 and 125 volunteers,” Cofer said. “The word is getting out and like everything else, it just takes time. I’ve already had a couple of emails asking, ‘When will things start again?’”

Food from the HOPE gardens benefits the Western North Carolina Epilepsy Association, Hickory Soup Kitchen, Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM) and The Corner Table, among others.

“If volunteers want to come out and give two or three hours of their time, they are free to take a bag home with them as well. It’s kind of a win-win,” Cofer said.

After starting with two gardens, HOPE added a third in 2011 at the Hickory YMCA. HOPE’s other two gardens are located in Newton and the St. Stephens area.

In 2011, HOPE harvested green beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, watermelon, green peppers and cantaloupe, Cofer said.

Preparation for the 2012 growing season will begin in April.

Cofer said HOPE would appreciate any donations of seeds, plants, equipment or monetary funds.

To sign up yourself or a group to volunteer, contact Christine Cofer at 828-312-8298 or by e-mail at For more information on HOPE, visit or find the organization on Facebook.

2011 HOPE production
Squash — 534.6 pounds
Cucumbers — 987.1 pounds
Okra — 463.9 pounds
Green beans — 369.6 pounds
Tomatoes — 231.4 pounds
Peas — 80.6 pounds
Watermelon — 148 watermelon/2,077 pounds
Cantelope — 71 cantlopes/231.6 pounds
Corn — 38.5 pounds
Green Peppers — 58.5 pounds