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Churches finding rich soil in community garden ministries

February 24, 2012

Both food and faith are growing at Episcopal parishes around the country who have launched community garden projects.

Here’s a look at what some of the winners of Health and Nutrition grants are doing in the garden this year:

St. Brigit's, in Frederick, Colo., was able to install a fruit tree orchard this year in their "Brigit's Bounty" community garden.

  • Brigit’s Bounty, a ministry of St. Brigit Episcopal Church, Frederick, Colo. St. Brigit’s began Brigit’s Bounty in 2009, in recognition of significant food needs in the area. Brigit’s Bounty is an organic giving garden, where all the produce from the garden is given away to the local food bank, families that have been adopted by the garden, the senior center, local low-income medical centers and other groups of individuals in need. In addition, the garden provided more than 500 students with hands-on learning opportunities last year. The Jubilee Ministry grant will be used to help hire a Summer Garden coordinator.
  • The Island Rat Community Garden, a ministry partly sponsored by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, W.V., opened in May of 2011 when the owner of a vacant lot granted use of the property on Wheeling Island to build 18 4 x 10 foot beds. The only problem was the lack of an on-site water supply. Bed owners had to haul water to tend their gardens, which excluded gardeners without adequate transportation. The grant will be used to install pipeline, plumbing fixtures and connection to the city water service, and to help maintain the garden site.
  • All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tenn., is home to more than 200 members from the Karen people in Burma, who are political refugees. To help them have access to adequate food, All Saints encouraged members to plant family gardens on the church property, which includes 12 acres of farmable land. In 2010, the gardens were wiped out by extensive flooding. Last year was a recovery year. Currently, 12 families are farming 1 ½ acres, and feeding more than 100 people.
  • The Frannie Millward Community Garden of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Berea, Ohio, harvested more than 350 pounds of fresh vegetables last year, which is donated to a local food bank. With an earlier grant from Jubilee Ministry, the church expanded the number of beds from 14 to 24 and added an irrigation system supplied by rain barrels. Volunteers spent the winter researching what to plant. Now, with the addition of a greenhouse and row covers, they’re hoping to further extend their growing season.
  • The Chapel of Christ the King in Charlotte, N.C., has plans to start a vegetable garden on church grounds to provide an easily accessible source of fresh, organically-grown food in the inner city, a former mill area now home to many economically-challenged seniors and unemployed youth. In addition, classes in composting will be held at the church, with high school students using the garden for their practical work. The bulk of the produce will be distributed free of cost in the neighborhood, while young people may sell some at a farmer’s market to learn business skills.
  • Environmental justice is the overarching theme for the Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministry Youth Leadership program Infusion, in Columbus, Ga. (Read an earlier Jubilate story about Infusion.) To experience activities for stewardship of God’s creation, Infusion partnered with Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development, an organization in a low-income food desert area of Columbus, to establish a community garden. Infusion teens and the young people they mentored from Beallwood designed, planted, tended and harvested the garden and donated the produce to the community. Funds from this grant will provide for next year’s community garden.
  • St. Thomas, in Denver, has converted unused space next to its parking lot into a community garden to feed the neighborhood.

    St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver is on the edge of North Park Hill, a neighborhood identified as a food desert. Although fresh produce is available in the immediate vicinity of St. Thomas, 18,000 people, mostly poor and minority, live in adjacent neighborhoods with little or no access to grocery stores and healthy, affordable food. In response, the church has developed a community garden of 12 raised beds in the right-of-way strip along its parking lot. The garden measures 1,900 square feet, and is enthusiastically supported by neighbors. Food is distributed primarily through the church’s partnership with GrowHaus, a neighborhood non-profit dedicated to improved nutrition and sustainable urban food production. This grant money will be used to buy topsoil, hoses, tools, seeds and a water sub-meter to service the beds.

  • The Hosanna Community in Hixson, Tenn., fosters independence for adults with disabilities. Last year, thanks to a Jubilee Ministry grant, Hosanna Community planted a garden, which not only provided residents with fresh vegetables but also brought them educational opportunities to till the ground. Now the ministry is seeking to build a greenhouse to extend its growing season.
  • Jubilee Park and Community Center in Dallas has several initiatives to respond to the nutritional needs of its community. Among them: a community garden to provide produce and to educate children; a Kids Café program that serves fresh and healthy meals to 120 children daily during the school year and 150 during the summer; a Jubilee Produce Stand operated by women in the community twice a month; and ongoing exercise and health classes on such topics as diabetes, obesity and nutrition.
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