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Community Gardens Provide Food, Connect People

MCPHERSON, KANSAS (April 5, 2011) – Countryside Covenant Church is the latest congregation in a growing trend of churches sponsoring community gardens.

The gardens are one means of reaching out to the community and helping local organizations that distribute food.

Countryside members Gary and Twila Mehl are overseeing the garden located across the street from the church. The garden is divided into 31 plots – 25 of the plots already have been claimed. Plots are available in two sizes: 25 by 25 feet for people who want to grow things like tomatoes and peppers, and 25 by 50 feet for people who want to plant things like cucumbers or melons.

Anyone in the area can farm a plot. “This is not just a church project,” Gary told the McPherson Sentinel. “It’s a community project.”

To increase their own gardening knowledge, the Mehls participated in a local college’s Master Gardener course. As master gardeners, they volunteer 40 hours each year to help with garden projects.

Their work at the Countryside garden includes staking off plots, turning off the water at night and taking care of the tiller.

The gardens provide an opportunity for new friendships to form as people work alongside one another, say the Mehls. They also hope that gardeners will donate at least 10 percent of their produce to local organizations such as the McPherson County Food Bank.

Other Covenant churches have been starting gardens as an opportunity for outreach and serving their community. Redeemer Covenant Church in Caledonia, Michigan, sponsors several events in connection with their garden, including, Seed Swap n’ Sow in the spring and Harvest Party in the fall. City Covenant Church in Kansas City sponsors a garden, but people don’t have their own plots. All is shared according to the amount of work invested.

The gardens also serve to educate the public. David Taylor, a member at Faith Covenant Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, has said, “I wanted to help families understand where food comes from. A lot of kids don’t really understand that food comes from plants and seeds.”

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