In 2011, St. Mark’s United Church of Christ in Bloomington created a community garden. It all started with the vision of a couple of members of the church. St. Mark’s is surrounded by quite a bit of land and that land had sat dormant for many years. With a grant given by the city and a willing group of volunteers –fifteen 10 x 15 foot plots were created. Walking paths were also created between the plots making it easier to navigate between them. The soil was enriched by large truck load of compost and the garden began to take shape. The plots were quickly spoken for – by both church members and as well as members of the community. Each plot is rented for the season for $25 to help offset the cost of the compost and water. The gardeners are strongly encouraged to use organic methods rather than chemical methods of gardening. The following year, 3 more plots were added as well as a raised bed garden. More recently – a flower garden was added anchored by flowering crab tree given in honor of the confirmation class.
Four of the plots are reserved for growing produce for our local food shelf, VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People). St. Mark’s has been a strong supporter of VEAP for many years – with donations and volunteers. This is yet another way in which we share our abundance with others in our community. Over the past 3 years, St. Mark’s has donated over 780 pounds of fresh produce. Our VEAP gardens are filled with cucumbers, carrots, onions, basil, tomatoes, peppers, beans, potatoes, greens and radishes. There is even one large plot filled with raspberry bushes. Often times, the produce is gathered on Sunday morning and then placed on the altar along with the offering plates. We give thanks to God that we can share our blessings – our abundance – with others.
There is work involved in maintaining the garden. Water barrels have to be filled when it doesn’t rain. The ground has to be tilled and weeded and produce picked and delivered. But it is all worth it. The tall sunflowers wave gently in the wind and the gold finches snack on the seeds. The bees buzz around the raspberries and butterflies flit about the flowers. Even the bunnies and deer glean from the gardens. It is a place of peace and beauty.
The community garden started with a vision of a couple members but it has grown to be an important ministry of the church – connecting people to the land – connecting community members to one another – providing healthy fresh food to those in need – and feeding not only our bodies but our spirits. It is yet another way in which St. Mark’s lives out its mission to serve humankind in a spirit of love.
… from Rev. Jennifer Jaimez, pastor of St. Mark’s UCC in Bloomington