Community gardens are popping-up everywhere!
Some community gardens emerge as places where families are permitted to use a small plot of ground to raise food for personal use and other community gardens are created to grow crops for distribution by local food banks. But, no matter which route a congregation embraces, the results are almost always the same. Congregations re-purpose a piece of property. God provides sunshine, rain, warmth and good soil. Volunteers do most of the work. And people who are struggling to make ends meet are fed.
James is a third-generation produce farmer who lives in Pennsylvania. He moved through the ranks. He worked on his family’s farm as a boy and then moved into the management of large corporate farms as an adult. But, deep inside, James always dreamed about working for himself and about purchasing a farm of his own.
James became excited after he attended a four-day training event hosted by ELCA World Hunger (a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and went away from the event determined to start a community garden. He spoke with the Social Ministry Committee and with other church leaders at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Plainfield Township, PA. He wanted to create “God’s Garden of Grace” – a place that would supply fresh food to a local food bank. James’ initial “spark” created a blaze that quickly spread; and soon, “God’s Garden of Grace” was embraced by both the members of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and by the entire community.
Community residents and local organizations began to work together. A local contractor supplied a 3,000-gallon water tank to provide irrigation, and the local fire department started filling the tank three times each week. People worked together to help folks who are food-insecure. God provided sunlight and warmth and rain. And the garden quickly doubled in size and fresh food soon found its way to the tables of people who needed it. Everyone who became a part of “God’s Garden of Grace” was a winner!
In 2017, “God’s Garden of Grace” produced 15,000 pounds of fresh produce!
James uses some of his own property to grow food that’s distributed by the local food bank, too. Last year, James’s 120 fruit trees yielded 5,000 pounds of fresh fruit that was added to the harvest created by “God’s Garden of Grace.” Local food stand owners and volunteers from the food bank helped to harvest the fruit. The dream that James had had for many years became a reality and families were being fed!
But, James had an even bigger dream!
He began to work with people from other congregations and communities that wanted to start their own community gardens. The venture that began as “God’s Garden of Grace” grew to the point that it no longer needed to be subsidized by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and that it was fully-funded and supported by the local community. James worked with many different community leaders and six new gardens were created. God still sends the sunshine and rain and warmth. Volunteers continue to commit their time and energy to planting and weeding and harvesting food. Food banks continue to find places where the food can be used to support families that need it. And the hungry are fed.
“This garden and this mission only exist because of the great volunteers that help it and make it happen,” James recently said, “and for that I thank them.”
If you’d like to learn more about the resources that ELCA World Hunger provides and about educational opportunities that are available, please