What comes first – the chicken or the egg?

In the case of The Garden of Giving, it would be the chicken.

The Garden, located in McMichaels, is pecking away at helping feed Monroe County's less fortunate with some fresh protein. Tammy Graeber, founder and director of the nonprofit organization, happily greeted 40 white Leghorn chickens to the Garden of Giving last Friday.

She welcomed Steve Hughes, an ag educator for Monroe County's Penn St. Cooperative Extension, as he delivered the chickens. They will lay about 30 eggs a day, producing about 15-16 dozen eggs a week.

The chickens are a result of a Monroe County 4-H embryology project. Some fourth-grade classes at Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg school districts received 12 fertilized eggs and an incubator, each.

The students watched them hatch and named them. Hughes then took the chicks to his farm in Bangor for the next 20 weeks.

Now at 21 weeks old, the chickens have come home to roost at the Garden of Giving, where they will help provide nourishment for families in need in the community, as they will be distributed to several local food pantries.

The first egg distribution will begin on Saturday, Nov. 26 to the Supplemental Food Resource Center at Effort United Methodist Church.

"This is just another level of protein and nutrition that we are adding to the fresh produce we donate during the growing season," says Graeber.

In the spring, Hughes will have another flock of 40 chickens ready for the Garden.

After about two years, the hens will begin decreasing in laying.

They will be processed and be given to area soup kitchens to be used in soups and stews to feed those going through difficult economic times.

The chickens will lay eggs for about 70 weeks, take a week's vacation and then resume egg-laying for about another 70 weeks.

Graeber estimates the cost to be about $600 a year to feed the first flock, $1,200 a year for two flocks.

She is hoping for monetary donations from the community and donations of feed from feed stores.

The chicken coop and the fencing for free range, was an Eagle Scout project by a Scout of Troop 98. Nesting boxes were donated by the Women's Auxiliary FOE 1106. Waterers, heaters and feeders were donated by Tractor Supply.

Another chicken coop was donated by Jim and Linda Schlier for the second flock.

Hughes, a retired farmer, says he loves this.

"People today are concerned where their food is coming from. When you can get produce and eggs and meat from a local farmer, you know the background."

"What could be better than fresh eggs produced locally?" asks Graeber.

Graeber started the Garden of Giving, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) three years ago after she was given two and a half acres of land from her late mother and her father. She was helping at her church's supplemental food center and noticed how much of the items were processed and canned food.

She says God placed it on her heart for what to do next.

"I realized the items were not very nutritious. I work with children and I became concerned for the children who would be receiving this food, knowing it's not good for the growth of their brains. I now had land that could produce fresh vegetables. I wanted a garden that could feed those in need."

Since then, the Garden has been donating fresh produce such as potatoes, corn, peas, beans, squash, peppers, onions and strawberries to five local food banks and two soup kitchens.

Next spring she plans on adding asparagus beds and blueberry bushes.

Graeber is hoping to eventually raise enough money to buy a tractor, so she is always looking for anyone who feels the desire to make donations to worthy causes to consider the Garden of Giving.

And she is always in need of volunteers.

If interested in volunteering, donating and learning more about the Garden of Giving, visit the website of www.thegardenofgiving.org [1] or email at GardenOfGiving@gmail.com [2] or call (570) 401-1282.