The Church Garden

A friend (thanks, Karin!) has been giving me “heads up” on several earth and people (I know, people are part of the earth, too) friendly things going on.  I’m not going to talk about them here and now but will give links:

1.  A six-story vertical garden  on the facade of a children’s library in San Vicente, Spain

2.  Front yard ‘microfarms’ in Boulder, Colorado

3.  Here is an article about a “Back-yard Urban Garden” CSA (community supported agriculture) project in Salt Lake City.

I’ll let you check those links on your own but want to propose an idea that could happen anywhere.  Have you looked around at all the open space in whatever town you live? Here in Orem, UT there is a lot of open space, vacant lots, unused right of way, etc. that could be used for community gardens, and that isn’t even considering back or front yard space!

See all that grass? What real good is it doing?

Here’s another idea: What if all churches –I live in Utah and most of the church properties are LDS (Mormon) — instead of planting, watering and grooming the large spaces of grass that are typical around many meeting structures, use the space instead for gardens. The watering system could easily be converted to a drip system which would decrease water usage, and there would no longer be a need for mowing.  The gardens would be taken care of by those using that building for church services, much as we now do for custodial work.  It could be a place for ward/parish, family, youth, and scout service projects and the produce would be available for those in that particular congregation, with excess available for families in need, Bishop’s Storehouse, cannery, food bank, etc.  In LDS wards, there are emergency preparedness, family history  and compassionate service specialists (callings),  why not gardening or food production specialist?  It wouldn’t work for every ward or stake, especially in some urban settings where there isn’t the grassy area around the building, but in those where it would work, why not?

It seems to me that there are way too many positives that outweigh negatives.  I realize that not everyone enjoys gardening but I think there are enough that do that it would work.  I have had many youth groups ask if they could help me in my yard/garden as a service project so I’m sure they would be available for something like this.  For those who do not like or are not able to help with the garden, as far as I’m concerned, you can still have some tomatoes and zucchini!  The Little Red Hen story has merit in that it’s always good to help if you can, but there are some who just can’t, for whatever reason and just because someone doesn’t like gardening doesn’t mean the food should rot rather than share!

We put strong emphasis on self-sufficiency in our American/western/Utah/Mormon culture, but we also emphasize service, community, congregation and charity.  This type of enterprise serves all those components — at least as I envision it.  Gardening families like to put their own spin on the “A family that [gardens] together, stays together” and I think that it applies to the ward family, the neighborhood family, the human family as well.

I would really be interested in hearing what others think about the possibilities here.

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3 responses to “The Church Garden

  1. “not everyone enjoys gardening.” True. Kinda how not everyone enjoys home/visiting teaching, activities committees, teaching Sunday School, etc. Callings don’t really work based on whether or not we think we’ll enjoy the tasks required. Callings are more about personal and communal spiritual development, and ward/stake gardening callings would fit nicely into that.

    An advantage of having ward or stake gardens would be even more immediate relief to those who need it. In Orem the cannery and Bishop’s Storehouse are easy to get to, but even cutting out that travel/transport time is a nice help.

    I see security being an issue – how do you protect the gardens from thieves and such? But that’s a challenge faced with our own private gardens, so this should be fairly easy hurdle.

    Another issue is just simple aesthetics. As wherever it was in Michigan has shown, some people don’t think gardens are attractive and therefore should be kept out of sight. I know this is a rather benign reason not to have a garden, but it’s one that I think a lot of people will actually feel really strongly about. But I think a nice balance could be established between garden space and grass space. Grass is nice for activities and such, be they church activities or just neighborhood activities – I’ve seen both. So some grass is good to have for those kinds of things. But with how big the lawns and parking lots of LDS meetinghouses are, I think it would be very easy to have a garden, a lawn, and parking adequate to the needs of the community.

  2. I think it’s a good idea. You don’t have to make all of the grass into gardens; even one or two sections would produce quite a lot of food.

  3. Jonathan: good points on the callings and immediacy of access. Security could be an issue, yes, but if someone needs food enough to steal from a churchyard garden then they must really need it. I would be sad if someone came and smashed our pumpkins just to be mean though. Aesthetics would be an issue, especially in our area. For some reason we have this cultural idea that acres of green grass here in the desert are “natural.” They’re not. Even with the case in Michigan where the woman was almost arrested, however, almost all of the neighbors were very supportive of her frontyard garden. I think there was only one dissenter (at least that I read). It was the city planner that thought a “normal” yard should have “beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers and grass.” I think if this idea ever gained momentum there would definitely be discussions between the church, people in the neighborhood and the city to decide how to do it and to what extent.

    Tiff: As per the last sentence above, maybe a grass border around the perimeter of the churchyard? Or as you suggested, maybe divide the sections between grass and garden.

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