Five years ago, Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, launched an initiative to help provide nutritious
vegetables to families in the Northwest suburbs, struggling to put food on the table. Right from the outset, all of the garden’s output was donated to the more than 400 families per month, served by the Wheeling Township Food Pantry.
“It’s all about feeding the hungry,” Fr. Hall said at the outset of the project.
With the help of the grounds crew at the Viatorian Province Center, they carved out a large garden — with room enough for 14 raised beds — and five years and nearly 9,000 pounds of vegetables later, the mission continues to grow.
This year, 16 gardeners are taking part, or nearly double the number that started. They include Viatorian associates, professed, staff members, alumni and even a pair of Saint Viator High School students.
Associate John Dussman heads into his third year as coordinator of the garden, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
“We are fortunate that new gardeners have stepped forward,” John says, “and we will be working together with them through the summer.”
One of those new gardeners is Fr. Charles Bolser, CSV. He comes from a farming family in downstate Rantoul, IL, and at his last post as pastor of St. Viator Parish in Chicago, he planted crabapple trees and magnolia bushes throughout the campus. Regrettably, he says, there was no room for a vegetable garden.
At the Viatorian garden, Fr. Bolser was among the first to plant his crops. He chose to plant jalapeno and habanero peppers for starters, and he followed up by planting sweet corn by seed.
“I wanted to plant something different, that no one else had planted,” Fr. Bolser said, “and vegetables I know clients of the food pantry will want.”