Gardens

A Garden Toolbox for Schools

 

Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
Catholicclimatecovenant.org

This site has education and worship resources tailored to different ages and settings. The “St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor” can be made by individuals or institutions to formalize their intent to change lifestyles and habits to counter climate change.

Passionist Earth and Spirit Center
www.earthandspiritcenter.org

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week spiritual formation program encouraging deeper care for creation, commitment to justice, and simple living. The discussion guide Christian Simplicity: A Gospel Valuelifts up the same themes but is usable at any time of year.

Veggiegrower Gardens
Veggiegrower.net

This site offers raised-bed gardens made of food-grade resin (BPA-free), as well as garden stands, seeds, and resin rain barrels. Garden beds come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Image: "Mr. Chuck," of Veggiegrower Gardens, shows Holy Ghost kindergartners how to form rows before planting seeds. Photo courtesy of Greta Valenzuela.

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The Bounty Next Door

THE IDEA CAME in a dream. One night Kaytea Petro, co-founder of Neighbor-hood Fruit, dreamt she was searching on a Web site for public fruit trees throughout San Francisco. “Once I realized this site didn’t exist yet, I knew it was a good idea,” Petro told Sojourners. “Everybody likes backyard fruit.”

Today, more than 5,000 trees are registered on the Neighborhood Fruit Web site, a database where people can locate a fruit tree in their community, register fruit trees available for public consumption, or make direct transactions, called “fruitfillments,” in which one user lists their tree to be harvested and another user volunteers to harvest the fruit in exchange for a bag of it.

Gathered produce is also often donated to food pantries and shelters, something they encourage, says Oriana Sarac, Petro’s business partner. “We are looking to level the playing field for different socioeconomic groups by bringing fresh, local produce to them, especially immigrant and lower-income families”—a concept as biblical as it is pragmatic. As it says in Leviticus 19, “You shall not strip your vineyard bare …; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.”

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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How to ... Plant a Community Garden

“Food deserts,” neighborhoods where people must walk at least a mile or drive 30 miles to access a grocery store, are rife in both urban and rural areas throughout the U.S. Planting a community farm on your church’s land can help the most vulnerable members of society gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables they might not otherwise be able to afford—or to find at all.

Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, which owns 63 acres, found there were many low-income single parents in its neighborhood struggling to buy healthy food for their children, says Beth Burgess, director of facilities and outreach.

Here’s how to get started:

Survey the community (six months-ongoing). Assess “food security” in your neighborhood, through written and other contacts—don’t rush this step!

Survey the land (three months). Get soil samples tested to determine what plants will grow best (check www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension for info). Get skilled advice about fencing and irrigation systems.

Plan crop rotations (one month). Using expert input, create a five-year garden rotation calendar—rotating crops deters insects and aerates soil. To ensure a strong first harvest, consider easy-to-grow plants such as tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, and greens. Plan how you will get needed tools; consider creating a “tool library” whose contents can be checked out.

Break the news and break ground (six weeks). Spread the news, then gather your congregation and neighbors for a celebratory four-hour session to till the plot—and get a wider circle involved! For farms larger than 5 acres, consider hiring a professional to finish tilling.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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