October 10, 2016

Cool Congregation Gardens – St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church

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St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lacey, Washington entered the 2015 Cool Congregations Challenge with their Community Garden.

Their church had slightly over an acre of land that had been fallow and unused for years. One of their church members really wanted to instill a love of the planet into the Sunday School kids so they started vegetable seedlings and planted them in the back lot.

A small group was formed in 2011 from the church and many skeptical members watched from the sidelines (“How are they going to do an ORGANIC garden?”) Kiwanis of Olympia had three large Food Bank gardens and they helped the church set up low pressure irrigation that irrigated just the crops, they supplied them with seed potatoes for 2000 row feet, explained how to harvest, and supplied some equipment. A core group of volunteers worked very hard in 2011, & 2012 to weed and maintain the garden and at the end of the second summer the skeptical members were very impressed! Their ranks of volunteers and monetary supporters continues to grow. They are fully pesticide free, and all organic.

What started as a Sunday School class planting veggie starts is now a well established Community Garden with 46 raised beds offered free to community members (drip irrigation included) each growing season, and over an acre of cultivated land which grew 9100 pounds of produce for the Thurston County Food Bank. This brings our total since 2010 to 33,600 pounds. They believe others find inspiration in this project from the diverse partnerships that have been formed.

Today they have a vibrant, community-based, environmentally sensitive garden where learning, relationship building, fun, and very hard work all come together.   Lacey Parks and Recreation dept. advertises their free raised beds and we have many more community members than church members using their raised beds and helping in the Food Bank garden.   Mountain View Elementary, a large elementary school across the street, working with the Food Bank educator, sent 22 field trips for a total of 700 children to the garden this past spring to plant veggie starts and seeds, identify and taste fresh veggies, and have a healthy snack . The children were ecstatic to plant, grow and harvest vegetables, as well as learn how vegetables can not only be weird and beautiful, but also nutritious for the body. Several kids stated that “This is the BEST field trip ever!”   GOD’S work, OUR Hands. Komachin middle school science department grew broccoli and cabbage starts for them as part of their science curriculum. Cooking classes, provided by a grant, were also provided to all classes by Food Bank educator and their members using garden produce and other food.

“Our Members are very proud of our lovely garden space and some community members like to stroll through the raised bed garden, sit at our picnic table, and just enjoy nature.”

 

St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!

October 9, 2016

The Shalom Park Community Garden – Temple Beth El

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Temple Beth El and four other Jewish organizations on Shalom Park in Charlotte, NC came together in 2015 to launch Shalom Green, the Shalom Park Environmental Initiative and created the Shalom Park Community Garden as a key component of the initiative. Shalom Park is a 54 acre campus, which is home to two synagogues, a Jewish Community Center, several schools, and a number of other Jewish agencies. The goals of Shalom Green include reducing the carbon footprint of buildings and operations on Shalom Park, providing environmental education, and sparking community-wide conversation about and action toward environmental sustainability. Temple Beth El and its Shalom Green partners needed a central, collaborative project, which would provide opportunities for environmental education, connect congregants with the natural world and serve as a visual reminder of the community’s broader sustainability efforts. The Shalom Park Community Garden provided a perfect solution.

As a result of these efforts, an unused lawn was converted into a functioning outdoor classroom and organic garden. Volunteers built ten raised beds for vegetables, whose yield will be donated to a local meals on wheels program, and several in-ground beds, which contain plants of Jewish significance, such as pomegranate and fig trees, herbs and grape vines. All soil, seeds, plants and fertilizers are organic, and irrigation for individual beds was designed to minimize water usage. Plants were selected and placed to offer opportunities for lessons in organic gardening, pollinators, companion planting and natural pest control. Lessons in the garden combine practical instruction in organic gardening techniques with a discussion of Jewish environmental values and larger issues related to living sustainably and protecting the planet. In its first months, the garden engaged youth from from synagogue religious schools and youth groups, the Charlotte Jewish Day School, the Charlotte Jewish Preschool and a Jewish Community Center Teen Camp in environmental learning. Future plans include educational opportunities for families and older adults as well. More than 150 young people and adults participated as students and volunteers in the inaugural season of the Shalom Park Community Garden, and spring and summer gardening seasons will bring opportunities to engage and educate even larger segments of the Shalom Park population.

The obligation to preserve the earth for future generations is deeply rooted in Torah and Jewish tradition; yet, being good “stewards of Creation” is not always easy and is not always foremost in our minds. Temple Beth El was inspired in our efforts by a congregant, who said the thing that keeps him up at night is his concern about the future of our planet. They were inspired by the shared enthusiasm of Jewish organizations across Shalom Park for the opportunity to learn about and implement changes to make our congregations and community more sustainable. And they were inspired by Judaism’s profound respect for and connection to the natural world to bring Jews of different affiliations and Jews of no affiliation together in pursuit of our common environmental values. By participating in Shalom Green and the Shalom Park Community Garden, Temple Beth El is working to focus the congregation’s attention on the critical need to protect our planet, with the goal of creating meaningful changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a congregation.

Temple Beth El entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!

 

October 7, 2016

Arkansas IPL and the Promise Garden

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Arkansas IPL has partnered with GardenCorps, Ark. Community Foundation, The Team of Neighbors That Love, and volunteers from Little Rock area churches at the Promise Garden in a low-income neighborhood for the past year. They brought in a dump truck load of soil, planted crops, added mulch, pulled weeds, watered, harvested, offered cooking classes, cooked together, shared meals, and saved seeds for the next planting season.
They  expanded and improved a chicken coop. We added 20 chickens that lay eggs. Neighbors who work in the garden take home the produce and the eggs.

In conjunction with the garden, Ark. IPL donated gift bags with CFL bulbs, power strips, faucet aerators, and socket sealers to clients of the Food Pantry at the 12th St. Clinic. Our partners were Ark. University for Medical Sciences and Vacation Bible School at 2nd Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.

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October 7, 2016

Ugly produce. Food not trash

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How often do you go into the grocery store and marvel over the gleaming array of perfectly sized and shaped fruits and vegetables. What happens to all the produce that does not look as nice? In America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste.

About 25% of produce is wasted in the U.S. before it even reaches the grocery store! This is mostly due to strict cosmetic standards from large grocers that dictate exactly how their fruit and veggies should look. This equals about 20 billion pounds of good, healthy produce left uneaten because it doesn’t look pretty! If produce fails to make the grade for size, shape, or color it’s deemed  “ugly” and unsellable.

There is a movement happening in this country that is getting us to rethink the way food should look. We are resisting the idea that to be nutritious food has to look beautiful. Not only that but the 20 billion pounds of nutritious but ugly produce can be used to feed the almost 50 million people are food insecure and almost 90% of us (over 270 million) are not eating enough fruits and veggies in the U.S.

There are ways we can make ugly produce a desirable product instead of an unwanted outcast. Stop Food Waste’s The Ugly Fruit and Vegetable Campaign has pushed large food chains like Whole Foods and Walmart to sell produce that does not fit industry standards. Support the stores that are selling the ugly produce and send emails to the stores that are still rejecting produce.

Look for local farmers and CSA that sell ugly produce. For instance Imperfect Produce, a subscription delivery service, sources from farms with produce that would be thrown out for cosmetic reasons. If we support programs like this we can stop billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables go to waste on farms across the U.S. per year.

Faith groups have taken up this food waste issue. In August Bethel Lutheran Church in California celebrated Ugly Food Month. They dedicated time during service to speak about why we should celebrate ugly food and ended their month with a potluck of ugly food dishes.

Jordan Figueiredo at the @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign they list more ways we can help reduce food waste by educating and changing policy around ugly food

  1. Everyone – Buy It and Talk About It
    Purchase imperfect (sometimes “ugly”) fruit and veg: at the farmers market, though a home delivery service like those above, at supermarkets or wherever you can find them. Talk about the issue and share your “uglies” pics with your friends and the world at my various @UglyFruitAndVeg social media accounts.
  2. Grocers – Sell It and Educate
    a. Put more pressure on our nation’s grocers to accept responsibility in this matter. You can do this here.
  3. Schools – Buy It and Educate
    a. We need our students, our youth, to eat more fruits and vegetables, right? What better way than to educate them to love ugly and save money while their school buys cheaper, but imperfect, fruit and veg! In many ways, produce shaming is parallel to body shaming and bullying – we should be teaching our students that produce can be imperfect and still beautiful.
  4. Governments – Support Farm to Food Bank
    You can also ask your state government if they support farm to food bank programs (or if they can start such a program or support them further).

 

 

 

 

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October 6, 2016

Cool Congregation Gardens – Cornerstone Edibles Small Farm

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Cornerstone Edibles Small Farm is a project of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples Florida.   Their mission is to help each other interact with creation and community by building a new Eden. The goal of their farming is not only the raising of crops but the cultivation and sanctification of human beings. Their community-oriented garden and grove is the land that supports our farm-to-table agriculture, nutrition education, and faith-rooted initiatives. Proceeds from their community vegetables, herbs and soon to be tropical fruit sales support this valued community work.

Their challenge was to create a working, educational, organic vegetable garden. Within 2 years they created a small size farm where they are now planting 30-40 vegetables, 90 tropical fruit trees and 20 herbs. Propagation, grafting classes and tree identification are offered weekly.

Proceeds are distributed on a weekly basis during season to church members after both services, to their local community and laborers based upon need not want. A monthly gathering in the field “Farm To Table” potluck is a perfect opportunity for the unchurched, marginalized and friends of Cornerstone Edibles to join them for a meal and conversation.

Check out a video about their program

 

 

Cornerstone United Methodist Church entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!