Food from the Earth

March 5th, 2014

As a gardener myself I have been doing a little research on how local churches are participating in community gardening projects. I found out about Erin McKenzie who is the Garden Coordinator at Food from the Earth ministry through Ginghamsburg Church. When you are finished reading her story I invite you to view the video.

I started attending Ginghamsburg in 2009 with my husband. We had moved to the area, had a baby, my husband was starting an academic program, and I was at a kind of natural reflection point in my own career/life. So I spent about a year praying almost exclusively for the discernment of God's call on my life. I was also working in other ways to try to discover where the intersection of my gifts, interests, and purpose might lie.

I grew up waaaaay out in the country, and my family was always outside working with plants. I did garden projects for 4-H. This was just one of those things I've always passionately loved doing as a hobby. Aside from a couple summer jobs at greenhouses, it had never really occurred to me to DO anything else with it (although I started the New Path perennial sale, this just seemed like a fundraiser type event without a true mission behind it).

So, after a year of prayer, and while taking the Momentum for Life class at Ginghamsburg an idea began to take shape in my mind. A friend of mine mentioned a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that she was getting involved with in Columbus. I had never heard of the idea, but loved it once she mentioned it to me. Basically, members receive weekly shares of the season's harvest. It's a more direct farmer-to-consumer relationship in which both the abundance of a good season and the risks of a bad season are shared rather than received or taken on entirely by the farmer. I began mulling around in my mind how this might take shape in the Ginghamsburg community. Meanwhile, three or four people from the church (whom I didn't even know!) approached me, casually mentioning that we should get something going with vegetables at the church.

Then, in this same timeframe, I had an incredible dream. I was in a greenhouse harvesting vegetables and distributing them in boxes to give to people. Jesus appeared over my shoulder. There was a lot of light and my whole being just felt overwhelmed with peace and love and warmth. Jesus conveyed to me that I shouldn't worry, that he would give me all the directions I needed. It was such a gift. It lasted quite awhile, and it was so cool that I was conscious enough to have clear understanding of what was happening.

Anyway, other doors seemed to keep closing, and this door seemed to keep inviting me through. Given that I had already been working on this "puzzle" of what to do, had come to such a similar and specific conclusion, had been encouraged by several others in the church, AND had that dream ... I figured I had been given a pretty clear vision to start working on.

So, it was already March of that year (2011), and obviously too late to start on a project of that scale for that growing season. This timing was also a gift because it gave me nearly a year to get a lot of planning and research done before starting in 2012.

We decided to adopt the CSA (congregation shared agriculture) model with a 10% increase of our share prices to members in order to financially sustain at least a 10%-20% harvest donation to the New Path food pantry.

2012 was our first season. Wow, personally, what a walk with God to go every day to work on something you love and be faced with challenges, joy, and so many opportunities for spiritual growth. As far as the ministry goes, we delivered at least 1,665 pounds of fresh, naturally grown produce to shareholders and food pantry clients. We exceeded our budgetary goals. We grew 2/3 of our crops to successful yield levels and did so without chemicals. We did this all with remarkably low "man hours" —God really taught me a lot about abundance, his provision, and trust that year!

Then, in June of 2013, my husband and I welcomed our second child. There was talk of continuing the ministry as a decentralized community garden (people growing their own produce in their own "plots"), but there just wasn't really the interest level to do that.

God used this "year off" to reinforce in me the desires to connect people with creation, to help people consider their food choices as they relate to their faith, to make naturally grown produce more accessible. I learned more about our role and responsibilities as stewards of the earth. I received strong affirmation that the garden ministry in particular and the creation care ministry in general are worthy of our time and efforts. My vision has been magnified and my conviction has been strengthened!

So! Here we are, already starting the 2014 growing season indoors under grow lights! People can help in literally any way they could think of or have the interest for. Watch a video about Food from the Earth here.

Erin shared her list of needs for this year. (I share it because you might see something your church can begin this year).

  1. Prayer! For God's redemptive work to be done through this ministry.
  2. We still have Harvest Shares available, visit the website.
  3. Donations for fencing = $25 / 5-ft section (We have up to 836 feet to fence!)
  4. HELP in the field! We will be having community work sessions every Tuesday evening of the season, 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. (we'll share a quick dinner together first) and every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.  for harvesting, followed by a farm-to-table potluck. Anyone is welcome at any one of these days. Additionally, we'll have other community events posted on our calendar for the season very soon. So, these are all great service opportunities for life groups (Ginghamsburg small groups). We're going to build a sand box area right inside the field this year, so if families with young children are working, the children will have something fun to do when they run out of gardening steam.
  5. Donations of two picnic tables.
  6. A Farm-to-Food-Pantry Liaison! We're looking for someone who would like to ensure that the produce going to food pantry clients is easy to use (providing recipes, canning instructions, and reporting back to the farmers about what produce is most useful and appreciated at the food pantry).
  7. A Green Machine! Someone who has been convicted about our responsibility for caring for the planet, and who would be in charge of looking into ways our church and attendees can make administrative and household changes to become more green! Composting in the kitchen? Using less, of everything (practical solutions for).
  8. An educator/event planner to help me put on more fun, educational events (or get involved in already occurring events) to promote awareness both of the importance of earth care, as well as about what we're doing through the Food from the Earth ministry.
  9. Perennial and Vegetable Sale coordinator or assistant. (We're going to sell tomato, pepper, herb, etc. seedlings at the sale this year (mid to late May) in addition to perennials. The earnings support the Food from the Earth ministry.)
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