A Community Garden

As we look forward to opening the Mercy House, I’m considering a community garden project that will provide fresh vegetables to our distribution center. What do you think? I’ve posted some of my thoughts to the Garden Web Forum for input and ideas.

I’m the pastor of a church on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have a food pantry serving low-income folks in our community, especially those struggling with poverty following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

We also continue to host volunteers short-term mission teams from across the country in the ongoing relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. We have been doing a lot of clean-up and rebuilding over the last five years. For example, this March, just about 5 weeks from today, we will have about 400 high school and college students from Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Kansas, and Mississippi here for their spring break volunteering in a host of projects around our community. I’m considering focusing some of the attention on establishing a vegetable garden, here on the church property, that will then, in turn, serve our food pantry ministry with fresh produce.

I’m looking for ideas. Any suggestions on type of crops, varieties, plantings, best practices, etc would be welcome. Whatever we do, the long term sustainability of this project will depend on the low maintenance needs of the garden. While we will have plenty of help during the month of March to get things started, help will be sporadic, at best, throughout the growing season.

One idea I have involves what Native Americans called the “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash. If I understand it correctly, the corn and beans complement each other with the corn stalks providing verticality for the climbing beans and the beans replace nitrogen into the soil for the corn. The squash then protects the ground and holds back the onslaught of weeds. I’ve never tried it before, but the idea sounds low maintenance to me. If I start germinating seeds in dixie cups this week, I would think the young plants would be ready for the ground by the time the spring break volunteer teams get here.

Any other ideas and discussion is welcome. Thank you so much.

5 thoughts on “A Community Garden”

  1. Just my take- gardens are a lot of work. With the addition of the mercy house, bunk house, and other soon to be satelite buildings, Lakeshore will have it’s hands full just maintaining the property. Canned goods are the way to go! (although I’m sure that MS mud could turn out some beautiful veggies 🙂

  2. Mike, you are correct. A garden will add extra work to the mix, but work is a good thing. (2 Thessalonians 3:10) I pray that we will be able to enlist some of the recipients to contribute to the maintenance of the garden. We aim to teach people to fish instead of just giving people fish; as the old saying goes. I also want to share the deep satisfaction gained through witnessing God’s hand of providence in the produce of his creation. You just don’t get that with a free can of beans snagged from a charity case shelf. Participation in the garden project, coupled with seminars on Biblical principles of self-sustainability and practical instruction, I pray, will serve to boost dignity in the community for the glory of God.

  3. If you do this, I will be there to help. Let me know when you plan to begin. I believe people in your community will participate and get some pride and self satisfaction from a project like this. Let us know!

  4. I LOVE to garden. It is very therapeutic and I especially love to weed and pick fresh produce along with someone. There are so many parallels to the scripture that I think it would be a wonderful way to promote conversations about weeds and sin in our lives and salvation and how God has told us that working with our hands is good! I only wish I was closer to be able to offer a few hours to the project each week! Will be praying for you as you refine the idea!

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