More and more congregations are either plowing up land on their own property to plant gardens or participating as a congregation in local community gardens.
It seems like a natural fit for rural Iowa congregations to gravitate to gardening. But even churches in the cities have many members who grew up either on farms or in homes that had large gardens. The gardens provide an opportunity for folks to appreciate God’s creation, build community and fellowship, as well as provide food for hungry people.
Every church in our synod that gardens does it a little differently, in a way that makes sense for their community and context. But for all of them the gardens provide an opportunity to work together and to share with their neighbors. The following are just a few examples of how synod folks are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty in order to make God’s bounty available to all.
Nazareth has a plot in the Cedar Falls Community Garden. They are the distribution point for a local agency that distributes food baskets. When people come to pick up their food basket, the produce from the garden is laid out and they can choose the fresh produce they want.
Nazareth also makes the produce available to their seniors who no longer have gardens but still want to enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden.
Having the garden off site has been a good opportunity for people to get their members out among the people and make connections, notes Pastor Dennis Hansen.
Our Savior has a plot in a community garden across the street from the church. The garden was started with a grant and is a collaboration between the cities of Waterloo, Cedar Falls and several community organizations. They distribute their produce from their garden on Sunday morning to anyone who would like some.
St Peter has half an acre off site donated land. They plant a variety of vegetables including popcorn. “People really like the popcorn,” says Pastor Hillary Burns-Kite.
The produce is sold at a small Farmers’ Market in the park on Saturday mornings and the money is sent to the Food Resource Bank. Any produce not sold is given to the local food pantry. “People really like that we are contributing to the community by providing good healthy, locally grown food, and we are also contributing on a more global level by donating to the food bank”
Trinity has rented a plot in the community garden. Volunteers may take a portion for themselves and then the rest comes to a “Share the Harvest” table set up at church. Gardeners bring in their excess and people can pick it up from the table and put a $ donation in a can for the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank. If there is an abundance, it is distributed to those who come in for food vouchers or take to the community kitchen.
The harvest from Immanuel is picked and cleaned on Saturday and then put out on Sunday morning for anyone to help themselves. What is left is taken to the local care center and other local organizations. Beginning in September they will use the produce for meals served at their Sunday school program.
Trinity has over 30 families tending to their garden. Each family chooses where they would like to donate the food. Some families then also help serve the food where they have donated their harvest.
Sara McCaw, director of family ministries, likes that the gardens help teach children to connect with the earth and learn how food grows. “We want children helping in the gardens – we don’t worry if they pull up a plant instead of a weed or some other mishap. We want them helping in the gardens. We want children and youth and their families to help with mission.”