Early in the afternoon on Saturday, June 5th, temperatures were pushing into the 80s, gnats busied themselves with their customary swarming, and a few people began planting in their garden, albeit a little late. They were inspired to diligence by the rumors of rain and their desire for community.
They were all planting in a tilled piece of land on the property of Fayetteville Presbyterian Church, behind a handmade sign that reads, “Community Garden: Want to plant & reap?”
I was one of those planting. I am the intern at the church this summer (in conjunction with the Presbytery’s Stewardship of Creation Ministry Team and the Eco-Stewards). One of my main tasks this summer is to work with the community garden, where learning, fellowship, and experimentation are key. I’m not an experienced gardener, so anything I do in the garden is experimenting based on what I learn from the internet and through fellowship with experienced and novice gardeners.
We designed the garden plots to average 3′ by 9′ with a few marigolds planted around each plot to ward away the bugs that aren’t good for gardens. Anyone in the community is welcome to have a plot (or two) until space is gone, whether you are a person of faith or not. The plots are free and all gardeners can do what they please with their produce, although we encourage surplus fruits and vegetables be donated to the local food pantry at the Methodist church. I know I am excited to offer my first fruits to the food pantry, symbolically giving them to God—and in hopes of a bountiful harvest.
The garden is not only about providing a space to those who might not have a garden, but also to add a sense of community to the gardening process. Gardeners can gather to take care of their gardens, share gardening tips, disagree over gardening tips, and enjoy and meet their neighbors. While having fun and learning, the gardeners will bless the land by creating beauty and actualizing its growing potential and feeding not only the gardeners, but the gardeners’ family and friends, and the community, even the economically less fortunate members who represent an important part of our community.
We hope to continue involving the community, although the garden space is being used to capacity. Look for information on a local foods meal and discussions on sustainable farming. Church member and gardener Nancy Tissue already envisions increasing the size of the garden next year (still leaving room for the annual tent revival) and to provide even more locally grown, healthy food for the community.
Each Thursday at 10:30 through July 22nd, I will be at the garden for gardening activities with any children in the community who would like to come (children’s guardians are encouraged to stay for the quick, 45 minutes-ish program). The children can witness various plants develop their crop; learn about the interactions of the plants, land, and insects; help plant, water, and weed; and help create “upcycled” art to ward off birds (church member Donna Smith envisions scarecrow “creatures from the recycling bin”), since part of living with and off the land is creative sustainability.