It is the season to do some mindful thinking about ways to gift that will linger longer than the 12 days of Christmas, that will do long-term good and that will serve as a model for continued or future behavior.

For feel-good, closer-to-home Christmas gifts, here are some considerations. First, make every effort to patronize local merchants. For gardeners, spin a gift certificate from a local greenhouse into a springtime event. Plan an afternoon with the recipient of your gift: Choose plants, plant them and have a mini party in the garden. Make this a tea party with a favorite child or plan a potluck dinner with friends to celebrate the start of the season.

Consider donating to Feeding South Dakota. It is possible to donate in virtually any amount, as well as select specific specific programs.

For example, some indicate that their donation should help fund the backpack program that furnishes a food-filled backpack to schoolchildren every Friday throughout the school year, providing food for children who would otherwise be at risk for hunger. A program that LeRoy and I support is the new Food Share effort, which accepts fresh food and vegetables as donations or buys at reduced prices at the end of a market day at the summer Black Hills Farmers Market in Rapid City. Tons of good food were collected and redistributed this year. Checks for that may be made out to Shirley Frederick for Food Share and mailed to 3411 Idlewild Court, Rapid City, 57702.

And, speaking of living your commitment: This October, as cold winds blew, Ev Merritt and Stu Steele, who have participated in and supported the growth of the Black Hills Farmers Market for 20-some years, folded their market tent for the last time.

As longtime advocates for locally grown vegetables, Stu and Ev have promoted heirloom plants, and as curious gardeners, grown varieties new to them.

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Their commitment to nutritious, locally grown food is recognized almost as clearly as their commitment to their community.

Nothing, but nothing, could stop them from getting to market. For years, Ev was the go-to person with questions about houseplants. Each fall, she and Stu launched major assaults on local wild fruit trees to harvest the fruit for her jellies.

As one who was taught, inspired, occasionally frustrated but always eager to learn from them, here's a gift from my heart. Thanks a lot, Ev and Stu. You changed my life.

Cathie Draine is a member of the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and the Garden Writers' Association. She lives and gardens in Black Hawk. Contact her at cathiedraine@rap.midco.net.

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