persons, places and things: Tomatoes to spare


By Barb Arland-Fye

This morning I had a large, juicy tomato to accompany my bagel at breakfast.

Tomatoes have been accompanying sandwiches for lunch and baked potatoes for dinner, too. As much as I love fresh tomatoes, the love affair is beginning to wane a bit.

We’ve been blessed with a bumper crop of tomatoes, zucchinis, green beans and peppers in our family garden this summer.

That’s never happened in the nearly 18 years we’ve lived in our home in LeClaire, and I find myself marveling at God’s generosity. In previous years, our garden had been located in a shady area near the back of the house. The few vegetables we managed to grow were gobbled up by rabbits, deer and other four-legged creatures that make nocturnal visits in our neighborhood.


My husband Steve decided to move the garden to the front yard where, as a result of a mild and wet summer, we have vegetables to share — and then some.

He’s baked 30 loaves of zucchini bread, prepared zucchini “bobs,” marinated cucumbers, vacuum-packed green beans and tossed enormous salads made with our garden’s ingredients.

Earlier this summer, Steve stewed that the rabbits would overtake our garden, even though it had been securely fenced in. He gave me one of those “I-told-you-so” looks when chew marks began appearing on the leaves of the green bean plants.

When he expressed sentiments about the rabbits that were not very St. Francis-like, I said I didn’t mind sharing the green beans with the bunnies. Our younger son, Patrick, suggested we put up a scarecrow in the garden bearing Steve’s image. We all laughed as we imagined the rabbits leaping away in fright.

We’ve been able to donate some of the extras from our garden to a food pantry and a meal site, friends and coworkers. I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of food.

Somehow, it makes me more aware of the people in parts of Africa, Haiti and other impoverished nations who subsist on one meal a day or even less. Earlier this year, we carried a story in The Catholic Messenger about people in Haiti eating mud cakes just to fill their bellies!

Closer to home, I received two phone calls at the office on two consecutive days from women inquiring about food pantries in the area. I’ve rarely received inquiries of that nature in the seven years I’ve been with The Catholic Messenger.

Food pantries and meal sites throughout the diocese have been reporting growing numbers of guests served in the midst of our widespread financial crisis.

Throughout the world, 923 million people were undernourished in 2007, Bread for the World reports on its Web site. It notes that hunger is a problem that can be solved. “The challenge we face is not production of food and wealth, but more equitable distribution.”

In his latest encyclical, Pope Benedict says we have an “obligation to the developing nations to ensure their access to food, water, education, employment and security.”

My family has been blessed to live in an area known as the bread basket of the world. And we’re having a first-hand experience of the stewardship responsibility that entails. In our little garden, we have been given the opportunity to share God’s blessings with other people.

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