Laura Knotts’ garden has produced over 1,100 pounds of squash, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs, since this past June. Yet, she hasn’t tasted any of it. All of the produce is donated to New Hope Ministries in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, to be given out to families in need.

“Every load of produce that we’ve had come in is gone the next day,” said Jeanne Troy, New Hope Ministries northern region gift officer. “It is such a premium to have fresh produce.”

New Hope Ministries serves around 2,900 people a month. Because of the availability of the herbs and vegetables from Knotts’ garden, New Hope Ministries is now teaching the families it serves how to cook with fresh vegetables.

Knotts, a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Smithsburg, is a member of the American Heritage Girls. Her troop meets in Dillsburg, Pennslyvania, which is why she located her garden in Pennsylvania. The garden is 40 by 60 feet, and she arranged for the land and equipment. She also made sure that there are volunteers to maintain the garden. The Ames Charitable Foundation donated the tools for the garden work, built the storage shed, and built the fencing.

Knotts got the idea for the garden when she was looking for a project to earn her Stars and Stripes Award, the highest award in the American Heritage Girls. Not only did Knotts have to design the project, but she also had to show leadership in it and have at least one hundred hours of participation.

“I looked around and saw New Hope Ministries and thought it was an organization that I could help out,” Knotts said. “I asked what they needed, and Jeanne told me there was always a need for a fresh source of produce.”

The pantry typically receives only canned or boxed items. Knotts came up with the idea of creating a garden that could provide needed pesticide-free, fresh produce for the pantry. It also tied in with Knotts goal of becoming a nutritionist when she starts college next fall.

The garden is now a permanent part of the West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, where the plot is located.

“She set up a plan for keeping it running for the next few years,”Troy said. “Next season, all we have to do is clean up the ground, till it, and plant seeds.”

Knotts said that she would like the see the Mechanicsburg garden enlarged to provide more for New Hope Ministries. She would also like to see other churches duplicate the idea on their properties to give fresh produce to their local food pantries.


Seventeen-year-old Laura Knotts of Smithsburg donated 1,100 pounds of fresh produce, from the garden she created and built, to New Hope Ministries for the hungry in need.

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