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Create a Community Garden

Starting a community garden or a gardening co-op at your congregation is a great way to help the church care for God's creation. A community garden serves your congregation by helping children understand where food comes from and what foods are truly nutritious. There is no better way to learn healthy eating habits than to grow and prepare your own meals straight from the garden. By being able to care for the garden and seeing how their care causes the plants to grow, children are connecting to nature in much deeper ways. By involving children and youth from your congregation and the local community in planning, planting, and tending the garden, you will provide a valuable education experience and build a sense of community. Creating a community garden at your house of worship requires much advanced planning, but is a very rewarding experience. A community garden is one way to express faith and interact with God and God’s good creation. Through community gardens, Health and Strength and Daily Food helps provide step-by-step guide to starting your own garden! 

The Whole Kids Foundation has funding available to schools that want to start a garden.  This is a great way for congregations to help champion a garden at their nearby school and assist the school nutrition staff or support their summer meals program.  Whole Kids foundation info: www.wholekidsfoundation.org

Planning and Gathering Information
❑ Although some congregations create a planning committee for their community garden, the key is to bringing together a group of people within your congregation that is passionate about creating a community garden.
Consider putting individuals in charge of different aspects of the garden. These aspects might include Funding and Resource Development, Youth Activities, Construction, and/or Communication.
❑ With this group, learn about community gardens in your area and any resources they might already use, if there are any. Contact your local food bank to see if they partner with any community gardens, and the American Community Garden Association also provides a list of community gardens in your area. Plan to visit any community gardens you find in your area.
❑ Local gardening associations might also have information to share—and possibly volunteers willing to partner with you on a new garden project. It is important to understand what size of garden is possible, as well as what crops can be grown successfully.
 ❑ Check with leaders and key committees at your congregation to enlist support and approval. Seek the enthusiastic support of your building and grounds committee, for example.
❑ Consider going organic with your garden to eliminate toxins from the food, create a safer environment for children to work in, and to help the environment.
❑ Discuss within your group and with church leaders what is the primary purpose of the garden and how it is in line with your congregation’s values. Ask questions like what the congregation hopes to gain from this activity? How will we use the garden produce once it has grown? What other activities can be built upon a community garden? What classes can be incorporated and how can youth get involved? Classes related to gardening, cooking, nutrition, and even taking care of the environment can be great additions to any community garden. You can find out more about your local food bank through Feeding Texas here.

Choosing a Site
Although a house of worship might have limited space to build the community garden, it is important to keep in mind:
❑ That there is at least 6 hours of full sunlight a day.
❑ Consider previous uses of the land. A soil test in the fall for nutrients & heavy metals might be necessary.
❑ Consider availability of water.
❑ Is insurance something you need to consider?
❑ For more tips, discuss with your local garden association or visit Rebel Tomato's website on choosing a site. 

Gather Resources
❑ Publicize the project within your congregation to ask for volunteers, materials, and cash donations. Although the project should start out with a group of committed members, the entire congregation should be able to be involved.
❑ Contact local businesses to ask for donations of materials, equipment, or volunteers.
❑ Publicize your project through neighborhood associations and other community organizations to invite your congregational neighbors to participate.
❑ Contact neighborhood schools to explore partnership possibilities.

Plant, Grow, Harvest
❑ Clean the site and develop your design using assistance from local garden associations. Rebel Tomato also provides basic site design.
❑ In your plans don't forget storage area for tools and other equipment, as well as a compost area.
❑ Once you have all the information and resources you need, it is time to dig and plant!
❑ Organize volunteer work crews and plan your work day.
❑ Consider turning the bed preparation or initial planting into a communitywide, celebratory event.
❑ Make sure that the garden is tended regularly and keep a garden log and continue to update the congregation throughout the entire process.
❑ As food grows and is harvested, remember to celebrate the garden’s success as much as possible both in the congregation and in the larger community.