The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Growing community

Lack of funding didn't stop California congregation's garden effort

The Aptos [Calif.] Community Garden at Christ Lutheran Church sprang to life with an invitation and a prayer.

The invitation came from interim pastor Herb Schmidt, who asked in April 2009 for volunteers to take on an outreach project. Christ Lutheran, a small congregation hidden in the woods at the end of a road in Aptos, needed to do more to reach out to its community.

The prayer came from parishioner Melanie Larson, who asked God for guidance about the kind of outreach the congregation should pursue.

Melanie Larson<BR><BR>A first harvest
A first harvest of mixed vegetables and flowers from the Aptos [Calif.] Community Garden at Christ Lutheran Church.

Then two things happened: another member, Marjorie Albright, spoke longingly of the community gardens of Boston, and an experienced gardener, Lisa Munier, visited from Virginia. "You have the perfect demographics for a community garden, and you have the perfect place," Munier told congregational leaders.

And with that, the congregation committed to the community garden project. They quickly formed a steering committee and recruited a board of directors. The mission was to provide space where people with limited access and varied abilities could grow organic, healthy food.

There were snags. Funds that had been promised evaporated, and the little church in the woods had none to give. Yet even that eventually proved no obstacle.

Larson, coordinator and board member for the garden, picked up her telephone and sold community members on donating goods and services. Soon a farmer donated fencing. A local lumber company deeply discounted fence posts. Companies gave concrete and gravel. The Rotary Club offered free labor.

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