“In The Beginning…”
A group of individuals led by Nita Nelson and Melodie Rossi (who originated the idea) gathered in 2016 with the interest in gardening. They began the journey by meeting with the Sr. Pastor and Council, the Property Committee for project approval and site location, and also applied for a CtK Foundation Grant. A portion of land to the east of the church and below the driveway near the fire pit was approved to construct the garden.
The Boy Scouts were interested in helping with this project (and one member in particular for his Eagle Scout Badge). So, they began in earnest to remove the sod, prepare the soil, install the chain link fence, as well as the wood gate. Smaller wire was also added to keep small critters out. Last but not least the 26 (10’ by 10’) plots were marked out, landscape timbers put around each space and wood chips distributed on all the paths. During the interim, a water pipe was installed under the road and into the garden site. Last but not least, a shed was built to hold the tools and other supplies (many of which were donated). For a determined group of Boy Scouts and the garden enthusiasts, all of this was no small task.
The garden was ready to go! Announcements were made to recruit approximately 15-20 gardeners at $20 per plot per year. The remaining plots would be dedicated to growing vegetables for the local food shelf and for the Sharing Table on Sunday mornings. Rhubarb was planted, gardeners recruited and the program was off and running!
Although the plans were that the Foundation Grant, some donations, rent from plots and a lot of hard work would make the project successful, many of the committee volunteered their time and used their Thrivent grants and personal funds to cover the start-up costs.
Beginning the summer of 2019, it was determined that the garden would be more focused on producing food for the community and reduce the number of spaces available for the public. Part of this decision was based on a need to get the garden plots under control from weeds, etc. Additionally, previous gardeners were invited to continue to have a garden space “without a fee” in exchange for a commitment to help the committee at least once a month with garden work in the community spaces, and potentially watering the spaces around them when watering their own garden. A regularly scheduled work evening was established as well as a Saturday morning in late April-early May for preparation of the garden and late October for clean-up.
With this new arrangement, a Community Garden “Family” was established and children were encouraged to participate as well. One work evening included a variety of appetizers made from the garden produce. Over the course of the summer, wood chips (free from the City of New Brighton) were spread, and perennials (donated by church members) planted around the outside of the fence.
The “Community” portion of the garden was a huge success with donations of over 300 lbs. to the local food shelf. Additionally, flowers, produce and other items were put on the “Sharing Table” in the narthex regularly and vegetables were also shared with local residents on National Night Out.