Members of Central Mennonite Church in Archbold are encouraged to share the bounty from their gardens at the Central Produce Table. Any monetary donations benefit the local food pantry. Photo by Alysa Short.

There are few things better than the taste of a home-grown tomato. But sometimes home gardeners can be overwhelmed with an overabundance of tomatoes, or zucchini, or beans. What to do then?

At Central Mennonite Church in Archbold, the answer is simple. Church members have a standing invitation to share the bounty from their gardens each week at the Central Produce Table. Anyone who has more produce than they need is invited to bring what they have grown, and everyone in the congregation is invited to take what they would like.

Monetary donations are accepted, although they are definitely not required. All funds raised benefit the Archbold Fish Pantry, the local food pantry. Usually, several hundred dollars are raised over the course of a season.

Laura Nafziger has been responsible for organizing the Central Produce Table since its beginning, about seven or eight years ago when Jeff Smith and Wanda Stopher were serving as pastors at Central Mennonite. As she recalls, the idea for the produce table came in connection with a sermon series. The idea was to encourage people to share what they had and to also be willing to receive from others.

The idea to donate funds came later, after some people expressed interest in contributing even if they did not have gardens.

Since its inception, the produce table has flourished each year, with donations usually beginning at the end of July and continuing until the frost curtails gardening for the season. As one might expect, the types of produce vary from week to week. “I never know what’s coming,” Nafziger said, noting that in addition to produce, often there are also eggs donated from someone who raises chicken.

Many people at Central know and appreciate fresh produce, and some older people who used to garden but don’t do so any more enjoy the opportunity to have home-grown vegetables, she said.

After members take home the items they want, any produce left over is delivered to either the Archbold Fish Pantry or to one of several missions in Toledo, Nafziger said.