We recently spoke with master gardener Amy Witt, horticulturist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension (Cumberland County) about her passion for gardening and harvesting for the hungry.

How did you become involved with Wayside?

We became involved with Wayside through our gleaning efforts.  We were gleaning produce from farms and orchards and needed a way to transport the produce from the fields to the pantries and get it distributed.  Wayside has been very accommodating and able to pick up the produce and then distribute it to people in need.  

What is your professional background?

 One of my degrees is in horticulture.  I am also a master gardener and have completed a herb apprenticeship program. I have been involved with the University of Maine Extension as a master gardener since 1998 and as an employee since 2001.  My responsibilities include coordinating and managing the Master Gardener Program in Cumberland County, establishing the Gardens at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth (a demonstration and educational garden), coordinating the Harvest for Hunger program in Cumberland County, and providing horticultural programming to the community.

What attracted you to gardening?

I have always been fascinated by plants.  I love trees and growing plants for pollinators and birds. 

Do you garden at home?

I have a vegetable garden, lots of native trees and shrubs and various flowering perennials.  Our landscape is more natural than formal.

What have you learned about food insecurity in working with Wayside? Has anything surprised you?

I do quite a bit of work on the statewide level with Harvest for Hunger and food insecurity, but it is always amazing to find out the numbers of people in need in our local communities and how the need is increasing significantly each year.

How would you like to see the relationship with Wayside evolve?

We will continue working with them on our gleaning efforts and collaborating on community educational programs and programs for the master gardeners.

What local harvest efforts have you helped with?

We have worked successfully with several businesses (IDEXX, Harvard Pilgrim, Martin's Point) to establish Harvest for Hunger gardens at their campuses.  The employees plant and manage the gardens, then harvest the produce and get it to local food pantries or Wayside.

What would you like people to know about your work with Wayside?

The staff at Wayside is incredible, very compassionate and dedicated to helping people who are food insecure and educating others about the need.  We are very excited and honored to be working with such an awesome organization.