Home Church youth learn community gardening with gourds

This summer, youth at Home Moravian Church tended a unique patch of ground in a community garden in Winston-Salem to help raise funds for mission activities. Their gourd trellis grew several different types of gourds in a compact space and helped teach gardening, community service and a love of creation.

Reesa Devers, an eighth-grader from the Home Moravian Church youth group, shared her experience tending the gourds:

“This year I helped with the Home Moravian Church Wachovia Garden. This experience showed me the process it takes to grow plants, and I also got to experience community with other people. The Wachovia Garden is owned by the Salem Congregation and maintained by Home Moravian Church. The food that is grown there is donated to Sunnyside Ministry. For the past two years, my youth group has planted pumpkins and gourds in a small patch of the garden as a fundraiser for our mission trips. So, once a year we have a youth group day that we dedicate to planting seeds.

“The first year we did this was last year, and when we got to the garden I was surprised to see a few different types of pumpkins. Honestly, I only thought there were two types of pumpkins. After planting the seeds, we still had to figure out what to do with the pumpkins. We had the idea to bake pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread to raise money for our mission trip. We also thought about selling the gourds for decorations. When it was time to have the bake sale, we sold out of both the pumpkin desserts and the gourds.

“This year, we decided to help in the garden again because it worked so well last year. I was invited to come on a Tuesday to help with the other volunteers. To be honest, I was nervous because I don’t really have a green thumb, and I could tell they had a system. Then, I realized that they just wanted me to want to help and I ended up having a lot of fun.

“When I went that time, I helped to build a trellis. A trellis is a sort of dome that helps plants grow up instead of spreading out. When we started to put up the trellis we had some difficulty putting it together, but now it is beautiful to look at. We also planted gourds.

“Now the gourds have covered the trellis and you can walk through it and have all the gourds hanging down above your head. It looks really pretty. I had so much fun doing the garden in seventh grade that when Ms. Barbara [Strauss] asked me this year to help pick out the seeds, I was really excited. When I got the catalogs, I picked out a few types that I thought would be good to grow. Now I’m in eighth grade, and I am really excited to see the garden grow more and see what happens in the years to come.”

The Wachovia Garden

Barbara Strauss, who is currently working on a music catalog project at the Moravian Music Foundation, and Margaret Norris, director of Christian Education at Home Church, helped guide the youth in the building and tending of the gourd garden.

According to Barbara, the Wachovia Garden is also home to other activities that combine church, community and a love of gardening for several Winston-Salem groups.

“A group of hardcore gardeners take responsibility for overall supervision, planting, harvesting and caring for the land,” explains Barbara. “Beekeeper Tracey Lounsbury maintains beehives to help with pollination.”

In addition to the Home Moravian Church youth’s growing pumpkins and gourds on the walk-through trellis, the Montessori School maintains a colorful and fruitful section for the young children. The Home Moravian Vacation Bible School visited the garden daily during VBS to help harvest food, enjoyed the garden as a place to study in the shade of a huge tree and understand the garden as an example of the church at work.

“Likewise, youth groups from other Salem congregations visit the garden to harvest and learn about feeding people in the neighborhood,” continues Barbara. “Students from Wake Forest University have conducted studies there and visitors at God’s Acre wander into the garden to see what is going on.”

“Some people ask if we are a farmers’ market or a community garden—no. Wachovia Garden is a church garden—a place to produce food for families, a place to learn about sustainable gardening practices, a place to see the church in action, a place for fellowship and the home for vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, berries, an ensemble of song birds, two hawks, three hives of honey bees, an obese ground hog and an itinerant fox.”

Thanks to Barbara Strauss and Margaret Norris for text and images for this article.