Garden ministries grow relationships and feed the hungry
Editor’s Note: If your church has a garden ministry that you would like to share, send the story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vegetable gardens are flourishing this season throughout the Upper New York Conference. Many churches throughout the Conference have garden ministries that help to feed fresh, local produce to the hungry and build relationships both with their communities and among their members. Here are some of their stories.
Clinton UMC, located in the Mohawk District, started a straw bale garden five years ago. The vegetables harvested from their 40-bale vegetable garden go to Hope House in Utica. The congregation gets together every spring to plant the vegetables. Throughout the summer and harvesting season, families sign up to take care of the garden on a weekly basis.
Diane Miner, a member of the Clinton UMC congregation, said, “Our straw bale garden works a little differently than other community gardens. When we harvest, the family in charge of the week picks what is ripe during the week and takes it to Hope House…or we may take it on a Sunday afternoon when we have other veggies that people from our church donate from their gardens.
We like donating it to Hope House because they take our veggies and add to others that are donated. Even if it's not a lot, they are very glad to add it to what they have. They use them in the meals they prepare to feed the community every day of the week. While we don't have a large garden, it allows for learning, mission, and ministry.”
In the winter of 2013, the mission team at Elma UMC, located in the Niagara Frontier District, decided to establish a “Giving Garden” for FISH, their local food pantry serving several communities. In the spring, they dug up an area next to their church, built a 6’ fence around it (to keep out deer, rabbits, and woodchucks) and planted their garden.
Elaine Delisle, the church’s Missions/Outreach Chair, said, “The soil was not good, but we were able to provide lettuce, tomatoes, and lots of beans to the food pantry. In 2014, we decided raised beds would give us a better yield. At the same time, our Christian Ed director approached us and asked if we could instruct the senior youth group on the proper and safe use of power tools in preparation for their upcoming mission trip. They measured, used circular saws and power drills to make eight 4’ by 8’ beds-and carried them to their proper places-what great teamwork!”
Filled with good soil and compost, the beds have been producing an abundance of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and cherry and regular tomatoes. The members of the Girl Scout troop that meet at the church have been faithful in weeding, watering, harvesting, and then delivering the produce, which has been gratefully received.
More than nine years ago, Jonesville UMC, located in the Albany District, started its gardening ministry with the assistance of one of their congregations’ master gardener, Nancy White. With the help of the church’s youth members, they designed, planted, and began growing produce to be supplied to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.
The basic layout is in the shape of a cross. It has used a “no-till,” “weed less” approach employing organic approaches in combination with raised beds.
Ed Bennett, member of the Jonesville UMC Green Team said, “…the garden has become the symbol of the Jonesville United Methodist Church’s commitment to care for the needy in our community and beyond. It has become an outward reflection of our inward caring for creation through the protection and preservation of the sacredness of the earth.
It has become much more than a source of vegetables for the Helping Hands Food Pantry, but also an educational resource to the clients, our members and all the family that surrounds our congregation. Every day a different member cares for this resource and it truly has become a reflection of our commitment to preserve and protect God’s Creation.”
Whitney Point UMC
Whitney Point UMC, located in the Binghamton District, supports their local community garden in a few different ways.
Whitney Point UMC Pastor, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny said, “The Lisle Community Garden was founded by community members about eight years ago and in the past 3 years we've really increased our involvement. This year we hosted a seed-to-supper class taught by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in our area. The garden organizers helped make that happen and encouraged participants to also help at the community garden throughout the growing season. We give regular updates on the garden in worship and encourage members to spend some service house there each week weeding and harvesting.”
The produce from the Lisle Community Garden is given to a local ecumenical food pantry, the area senior center, and distributed throughout town to anyone who wants it. They always have a stand to give out produce at the annual backpack giveaway that is hosted at the church and volunteers often deliver produce to a local low-income trailer park.
Rev. Turnpenny added, “We also allow the garden volunteers to use our kitchen to make jam and do canning once the harvesting is complete.”
Gardening is a great way to use God’s creation to help the hungry. If your church has a garden ministry, we’d love to showcase your harvest on our Facebook page. Email photos to email@example.com.