Sharing the Fruits of Their Labor
If container gardens are meant to serve a people on a smaller scale, community gardens – like the one done for the past six years by Jacksonville's Our Lady of Sorrows Parish – share the fruits of labor on a larger scale.
Last year, the parish garden yielded an estimated 3,500 pounds of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and okra that was distributed among food pantries operated by the local First United Methodist and Catholic churches, as well as the H.O.P.E. Kitchen.
With such a garden, “everybody shares in the ministry of providing for others,” said Father Mark Kusmirek, pastor of OLOS. “We started it years ago, it just seemed the right thing to do (and it was) a way for people to get exercise and save money, and work in the earth, too.”
Volunteers will help prepare the ground soon, taking various plants and burying them in a plot located behind the parish office.
Already, a handful of families have signed up to help tend the garden, but the priest said the challenge is that “the garden needs constant attention.”
“If we could find people to spend a couple of hours a week to weed, rake, water,” it would be a great help, he said.
Over the years, the project has attracted help from local residents, with volunteers generously offering their time and experience, while the ag department from Jacksonville High School helped the first or second year by donating a large number of tomato plants students had nurtured.
“That turned it into a true community effort,” Father Kusmirek said.
Still, the project is popular with his parishioners because it encourages them to be outdoors, “in the sunshine, getting exercise” while helping “people to know that food does not appear magically, that someone somewhere has to make that grow, has to harvest it, transport it,” the priest said. “And there's the good of helping people develop a sense of self-esteem by being able to feed themselves and others by the work of their hands.”