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PWJ Grant supports Community Garden

Bethany’s environmental stewardship ministry took a vital step in creating an organic community garden ministry that would guide the church and community to be good stewards of God’s earth by teaching organic gardening practices and providing high-quality, locally grown produce to needy community members. With the help of a grant from the Peace with Justice Sunday offering their garden became a reality.

Bethany members felt that contemporary agricultural practices—including the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, as well as trucking produce far away to market—are harmful to the environment and have unknown effects on human health. Bethany hopes to combat these negatives with the community garden.

With the current economic downturn, Bethany’s members felt that now is the perfect time for creating a community garden. Although many in the community would embrace having access to fresh, locally grown produce, its additional cost puts it out of reach for many families struggling to afford any fresh foods at all. In addition, home-based gardening is often not an option for these same families due to the high start-up costs and maintenance time required. Bethany hopes to be able to provide high-quality food and provide outreach beyond the church, by inviting those who have no church home to participate in the program.

In order to defray the initial start-up costs, Bethany obtained $540 from a Peace with Justice grant from the Southwest Texas Conference. It also enlisted the expertise of gardeners in the congregation who offered their help with planting and maintaining the garden, and organizations in the larger community who indicated a willingness to assist with educating and training volunteers and community outreach. Bethany also received guidelines and protocols from other community gardens in the area, including information from other faith-based communities.

Bethany also provided an educational workshop about organic gardening. 46 people attended the workshop and it was very well received. Many of the attendees expressed their eagerness to garden on their own property but are interested in donating excess produce

Bethany has built and installed a raised bed for the garden area. This area will be used for demonstration purposes and to get the children involved. They have partnered with Rock UMC to provide fresh organic produce to the surrounding community and area food banks; and develop a community garden model that could be readily replicated by other faith-based organizations. Because of the location they will be able to use a rain water collection system that is already installed. The garden had to be fenced off because of wildlife in the area. 

--by Rene Leah, freelance writerfor United Methodist Communications.

Your gift offers The United Methodist Church a voice in advocating for peace and justice at home and around the world. Open the door to Justice. To get involved, you can contact the Peace with Justice Coordinator in your annual conference. Additionally, you can give online to Peace with Justice Sunday at any time, click here. Together, we can work together for a faithful and loving world for all and bring hope for our future.

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