A popular fresh produce program will be returning to The Community Exchange (TCE) in Altona this summer, and we're being encouraged to plant a little extra in our gardens in order to help grow the initiative, called Toonie Tuesday. 

Last year's Toonie Tuesdays, which saw people donate the excess produce from their gardens and fruit trees, had an average of 10 baskets go out the door each week.

"I think we weren't sure when we were starting out, what the interest would be," admitted Barb Rempel, one of the organizers of the program. "There was a core group of people that came each time."

While she believes it was the fresh produce that drew people in, Rempel feels it was also about building some community.

"There were some spontaneous things that happened," she said. "A bit of cooking happened, or people were connected to other programs and saw that this was available and were curious about some of the vegetables that were there, maybe hadn't tried them before."

There was a responsive piece to it as well, added Rempel.

"I know some people here shared some recipes, made zucchini fries. We had a huge cart of zucchini that was just for the taking. Again, it just builds community and some interest, and people took things home wanting to try something new."

The free cart

As Rempel and fellow organizer, Megan Regier, look to the season ahead, they hope gardeners will keep them in mind, whether that's planting an extra row or picking vegetables, like beans, longer than they normally would. The more popular items, based on last year's initiative, were mini cucumbers, zucchini, peas and beans. Fruits and vegetables that store well or freeze were also in demand, including carrots, potatoes, onions and corn. Regier noted, apples are also great later in the summer when parents begin thinking about packing school lunches once again. 

Additionally, the Altona Community Garden has also donated a plot for Rempel and Regier to plant items specifically for Toonie Tuesday. 

Regier was quick to point out, Toonie Tuesday is for anyone looking for some fresh produce.

"Maybe you don't have a big garden. Maybe you're at a point where you can't garden. Maybe you want two cobs of corn for dinner. Please come out and see what's available and you can take, because it really is for everyone in the community."

It's still early in the season so details on this year's initiative, including pick-up and drop-off times, cost of the baskets and when they'll be available, haven't been hashed out yet.