‘Going to the Garden’ Grants Go to Five Churches so Far

Photo by courtesy of La Verne Church of the Brethren
The cover of the Fall 2012 issue of “Gleanings,” a newsletter of La Verne Church of the Brethren’s “Peace and Carrots” Community Garden

Church of the Brethren congregations across the country have begun applying for and receiving “Going to the Garden” grants as part of a new initiative to support congregationally based community gardens. “Going to the Garden” is an initiative of the Peace Witness Ministry and aims to address food insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty. It is funded by $30,000 designated from the Global Food Crisis Fund.

Most congregations that take part receive $1,000 for community gardening projects on their land or in their neighborhoods, however individual grant amounts may vary depending on each church’s situation.

In addition to receiving a grant, congregations that take part may receive advice and help from consultant Cliff Kindy, a long-time Church of the Brethren farmer and peace advocate from northern Indiana. Nate Hosler, director of the Peace Witness ministry based in Washington, D.C., is heavily involved in the project as well, along with GFCF manager Jeff Boshart.

So far, five congregations have received grants: Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, and Living Faith Church of the Brethren in Concord, N.C. A grant application from a sixth congregation, Mount Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, is in process.

Here are the plans of a few of these churches:

The Annville Church is starting a new community garden as a project of its Service Ministries Team. Planners anticipate it will be much like the “Plant a Row” program in which participants designate one row of a garden to be donated to a food pantry or soup kitchen. The church is designating some 10,000 square feet of farm land for the garden, owned by and adjacent to the church. If additional land becomes available, the church will add a low-maintenance wildflower garden with benches and meandering paths both for use in contemplation, and to surround the vegetable garden with healthy, local wild flowers and plants and introduce pollinators such as bees and bats to make the garden more successful.

The La Verne Church has had a community garden in place for three years, called the “Peace and Carrots Community Garden.” It is receiving a grant to fund improvements to raise the method of gardening from ground-level beds to permanent raised beds. Individual gardeners who participate will be asked to contribute $50 each toward the cost of the improvements. Every year the garden has helped feed neighbors in need through contributions to the local food bank. In 2010 the garden donated 945.5 pounds of food, in 2011 it donated 1,408 pounds, and in the summer season of 2012 it donated 1,268.5 pounds. La Verne also has sold its garden produce at a Farmer’s Market, held in the courtyard of the church.

The Living Faith Church garden also already is in place, providing “food, fresh vegetables, and the love of Jesus” to neighbors and those in need in the community. Winter cabbage and collard greens grown this past season were given out with Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes, and the church also has been distributing donated food such as turkeys from a local grocer. The group hopes to add a green house to its garden to extend future growing seasons, and is looking at starting a weekly “take what you need” market for those who can come to the site to receive food.

Boshart estimates that about 20 other Church of the Brethren congregations have community gardens or similar projects already established, and hopes that many of them will take advantage of the grant program as well as churches who want to start new projects. The application form is online at www.brethren.org/bdm/files/going-to-the-garden.pdf . Questions about the application process should be directed to Nate Hosler at 202-481-6943 or 717-333-1649 or nhosler@brethren.org .