In the last few years America’s interest in organic, locally-grown food has increased substantially. Add an economic downturn and a fast-paced urban environment to this newfound interest and the result is a resurgence of home gardens, as people try to save money, provide their families with healthy produce and unwind by stepping off the concrete and sinking their hands into good ol’ fashioned dirt.
Church of the Redeemer in Dublin, Ohio was constructed on farmland on the outskirts of Columbus. As time passed, however, the empty farm and forest land surrounding the church developed into a thriving, urban landscape. Many people moving into the area’s brand new apartments, condos and homes found themselves either without land for a garden of their own, reluctant to tear up a portion of their own lawn which they just paid thousands to lay down, or faced Home Owner’s Associations that prohibit vegetable gardens. Realizing fertile land was something Redeemer had in abundance, and seeing the need for such a resource in the community, church leadership formed Redeemer Community Garden.
The Garden is about three quarters of an acre, divided up into plots each measuring 15 feet square. Members of the local community can sign up for a free plot in early April, and the plots are usually tilled and ready for planting by early May. This summer nearly 50 individuals and families from the surrounding area had at least one plot in the garden.
In addition to helping people eat healthier, we have discovered that the garden also helps build a diverse community. People from Redeemer and the wider community had the opportunity to meet others they may not have otherwise had occasion to. It is a place of education as gardeners share their green-thumb knowledge.
It even promotes cultural diversity. For instance, an individual who grew up in China and immigrated to the United States as a young adult grows some of his favorite vegetables that are normally native to China, veggies he cannot find here in local grocery stores. The ability to grow his favorite foods from China allows him and the several others like him to keep more of their cultural identity and educate others as they share their unique produce with their plot neighbors.
The garden community also contributes some of its fresh produce to a local homeless shelter called “Friends of the Homeless.” Once a month members of Redeemer prepare and serve a meal to the residents of the shelter which, thanks to the garden, has also included fresh salad and veggies. Redeemer has received nothing but positive feedback from the residents because garden fresh vegetables are not normally a part of the meals they are served.
Although planning, organizing and executing the garden takes quite a large amount of time, the end result is well worth it. People are making friends, eating nutritious foods, unwinding from their busy days, saving money, learning from each other, promoting cultural diversity and building community. What a bountiful harvest from such a little patch of God’s green earth!
Jay Petrella, pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Dublin, Ohio, co-wrote this article with congregation member Trent Reynolds.
From the October 2013 Moravian Magazine