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Do you live in the Nicest Place in America?

Young Green Thumb Grows Food for the Needy

Our hero: Austen Pearce, 14 Where he lives: Maricopa, Arizona How he helps: Grows food for needy families Austen Pearce learned to garden on a small patch of ground in his backyard. At age ten, he started volunteering an a food bank and was savvy enough to notice that the produce being sold was often past its prime. Wouldn’t it make more sense, he thought, to grow fruits and vegetables locally? Now, four years later, he’s supplying 200 needy families with fresh produce. Pearce lobbied his city for a community garden, and within months, a farmer had donated an acre of land and valuable irrigation. A master gardener helped Pearce plan his plots. From March to July, Pearce and other volunteers tend tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and other crops; they harvested more than 7,000 pounds of donated produce within the first year alone. “I would love to see such gardens in more cities,” says Pearce. “Why stop in Arizona?” Know a local hero? Visit American Towns to submit your nomination: