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Church's community garden set to expand
The Rev. David Adkins (from left) of Starling Avenue Baptist Church stands with Peggy Farrar and Toni Tollison as Carrie Painter and Cody Minter work behind them in the church’s community garden in Martinsville. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Hope Community Garden, spearheaded by Starling Avenue Baptist Church, has grown since its beginning in 2009, and there are plans to add four more raised beds and make other improvements.
Meanwhile interest has dwindled in the community garden plots available the last few years through the city of Martinsville, and currently no one is gardening there.
William Hankins, city parks maintenance supervisor, said he didn’t know why interest has waned in community garden plots available through the city (near Moss and Market streets, and on Progress Drive), but they still are available. For more information about fees and regulations, call the city parks and recreation department at 403-5140.
Toni Tollison, one of the leaders of Hope Community Garden, said one reason it has grown may be that a lot of its food is donated to Grace Network to help people in need.
Peggy Farrar, the other leader of the garden, said last year 223 pounds of produce from the garden was donated to Grace Network. So far this year, 105 pounds of produce has been delivered to Grace Network, she said. The vegetables included cabbages, broccoli, onions, squashes, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beets and green beans.
In addition to Starling Avenue Baptist, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has been actively involved in the garden, and Christ Episcopal Church made a donation, according to Tollison and the Rev. Dr. David Adkins, pastor of Starling Avenue Baptist Church. “It’s not just our church,” he said.
Adkins said Starling Avenue Baptist bought the land several years ago when Sara Lee moved out, and the church used it for overflow parking, but it wasn’t paved. The idea of the garden came about as a result of considering “what’s the best stewardship” of the land, thinking about people out of work and how to make an environmental statement, he said.
“We wanted to show people you can raise crops organically and provide yourself and others fresh vegetables,” Adkins said. “Children can learn about care of the soil and care of the environment.”
It also was about “building community” — people coming together when there may not have been a reason otherwise, he said.
Farrar said there are about 11 cinderblock garden beds, six or seven tire garden beds, a garden bed in the ground around some guy wires and three flower beds with little growing in them. She said four more cinderblock garden beds will be added. She and Adkins said the beds will be added because more people want to grow vegetables than the garden can accommodate.
Farrar and Tollison said the current cinderblock garden beds are mostly about four feet wide and range in length from about eight feet to about 29 feet.
There also are plans to add split rail fencing across the front of the garden within the next several weeks so the entire garden will be fenced, Tollison said.
She said there is a $10 fee per season to rent land to grow vegetables for personal consumption, but the fee is only $1 per season if part of the food grown is for personal consumption and part is given to the needy.
Tollison said there are three growing seasons, early spring, summer and fall. For instance, in the spring, Girl Scouts planted 100 cabbage plants in the garden in honor of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, according to Tollison and Adkins. Tollison added that sometimes, children from the church plant vegetables in the spring and fall.
Starling Avenue Baptist provides the water for the garden, and 8-10 volunteers do such things as cut grass, weed, plant and help lay blocks for the raised garden beds, Tollison said. People who raise vegetables for themselves are responsible for taking care of their own beds, but everyone watches out for each other, Tollison said. For instance, she told how some novices are being taught how to garden.
Currently tomatoes, squashes, onions, cucumbers and green beans are among the vegetables being grown in the community garden, Tollison said.
She said she loves gardening, being outside and growing food to help people in need, which she called “a mission for me.” She added, “We’ve got a lot of hungry people in Henry County.”
Farrar said: “I like to garden. It’s a ministry. It’s part of our church,” referring to Starling Avenue Baptist.
Bob Humkey, a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, said the community garden is “a small step, (showing) there are those who care enough to give (others) a few bites to eat. It’s a way of a community taking care of itself.”
He said St. Joseph’s has been involved since the beginning of the garden. St. Joseph’s had been looking at starting its own community garden but decided having one community garden would be better than competing.
Adkins said of the community garden: “I feel like this is a movement catching on across the country. Duke Divinity School even has conferences.”
According to the Duke Divinity School website, a conference titled “Making Peace with the Land — Embracing God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation” is scheduled for Sept. 21-22 at the divinity school.
Adkins pointed out that humans started out in the Garden of Eden, which he believes shows that people “are meant to be part of a natural environment.” There are numerous scriptures that support gardening and stewardship of the land, including in Leviticus and Psalms, he said.
According to Tollison and Adkins, companies that have made donations to the garden include Southern States, Crouch’s Nursery, Harris Nursery, Collinsville Produce and Lowe’s home improvement.