By: Stephen Egbertson
Feeding God’s Sheep: North Congregational Church’s Community Garden Fulfills Its Mission
He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’
Gospel according to John 21:17
The North Congregational Church’s Community Garden was born out of discussions within the congregation about the use of our Parsonage. For many years the building had been used as a residence and as is the case with all homes, years of wear and tear had left their mark. Realizing that the cost of renovations, at this time, were beyond our resources, we began the process of discerning how to best use the property. An important factor in our decision-making was to be faithful to our mission of outreach in the community. The suggestion of planting and maintaining a community garden to provide fresh produce to the local food kitchens was born out of our desire to heed Jesus’ command to feed the hungry.
A committee was formed almost immediately and plans for the use of the land were underway. As soon as we were able to, soil samples were taken and sent to the lab for testing. Those involved in this mission project could be overheard at coffee hour on Sunday discussing the size of the garden and what vegetables should be planted. In late Spring an over-flowing pickup truck-load of horse manure, courtesy of Gary and Linda Navitsky‘s horse, Murray, was deposited on the 30 x 50 foot garden site. The land was tilled, what to plant had been decided, and we were all set to go.
Fortunately, the timing of our planting coincided with Northwestern Regional 7’s Vo-Ag annual plant sale. Our intention was to purchase some of the unsold plants at the end of their sale. When they learned that we were planting a community garden to serve the local food kitchens, they said we could have the whole lot at no charge. An unexpected blessing, this largesse amounted to over 70 tomato plants of varying types, as well as several cabbage, broccoli and pepper plants. With their help we were off to a great start. Donations of other plants came from Girl Scout Troop and church members. Finally we were ready to begin planting! Over the course of one afternoon in May, members of the church planted row after row of young plants. Several days later, seeds for carrots, lettuce, and spinach were sown. Within a few weeks other crops were planted, including leeks, squash, cucumbers, radishes, beans and several herbs.
With the coming of fall, the garden has now been ‘put to bed’ for the season. We picked a few green tomatoes before pulling the withering vines, in hopes they will ripen in the window. All of the dead plants and vines were turned over and covered with the fallen leaves, in preparation for next year’s tilling.
The Community Garden yielded over 150 pounds of fresh produce which was donated to the following local food agencies: The Open Door in Winsted, FISH of Torrington, and the Community Food Bank at Pleasant Valley Methodist Church.
Plans are already underway for next season’s garden, as we continue to heed the call to feed God’s sheep.
Photos show some of the garden produce from the Community Garden. Photos by Stephen Egbertson and Margret Hofmeister, Pastor of the Church.
Stephen Egbertson is a member of the North Congregational Church. The Church is located at 17 Church Street North, New Hartford. To learn more about the North Congregational Church, please visit the Church’s website or its Facebook page.