Hastings UMC garden blesses community with fresh produce

December 03, 2014

Church: Resurrection UMC of Hastings

District: River Valley

Submitted by: Hastings UMC

By Christa Meland

Tammy Bailey used to visit her local food shelf on a regular basis in order to be able to provide for her 16-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. But since Hastings United Methodist Church started a community garden in the summer of 2013, her trips have become few and far between. She’s one of many people the garden has fed.

Over the past two summers, in addition to providing food to those who helped with the garden, Hastings UMC donated thousands of pounds of produce to Hastings Family Service—which provides emergency and support services to those who lack food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities. Hastings UMC’s contributions prompted Hastings Family Service to nominate the congregation for Minnesota Food Share’s “Golden Beet Award,” and the award was presented last month. (The award is part of Minnesota Food Share’s Harvest Campaign. Over the summer, Minnesota Food Share invited congregations and individuals to donate fresh homegrown produce to a food shelf near them and report how many pounds of fresh produce they donated.)

Bailey, 37, isn’t a member of the church—but she participates in a single moms group there and heard about the garden through it. She and some of the other moms had long talked about how wonderful it would be to have a community garden where they could get fresh food. They were thrilled when Julie Klaus, Hastings UMC’s director of children and family ministries, and her husband offered to house a 4,800-square-foot garden at their local business, Klaus Nurseries.

Church and community members were invited to help maintain the garden. It’s mostly members who planted, weeded, and harvested—although a number of people from the single mom’s group, including Bailey, also participated.

“To be healthy is so expensive,” Bailey said. “So many of us can’t find the finances. When you can do the work and get to take home the products, it’s amazing.”

Each week during the harvest, everyone who worked on the garden would take what they needed from the garden—which had tomatoes, carrots, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, cilantro, onions, basil, and rutabaga. The remainder then went to Hastings Family Service.

In addition to selecting items for her own family, Bailey delivered vegetables to four other women in her single moms group who couldn’t make it out to the garden. For each of them, the produce was a blessing—and thanks to freezing and canning (which Hastings UMC members taught classes on), veggies from the summer lasted well into the winter.

When Bailey walked into the food shelf in January, it was her first visit in many months. A worker there who had come to know her during the days of her more frequent visits asked, “Where have you been?” She explained that she hadn’t needed the food shelf because of Hastings UMC’s community garden.

“Especially as we go through the Healthy Church Initiative process, we are trying to look beyond our walls,” Klaus said. “If you’re only focusing inward, you’re not going to make an impact on your community.”

At the beginning of this past summer, Bailey was diagnosed with cervical cancer that has since spread to her pelvic floor—and she recently developed Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. Because of her cancer treatments, she wasn’t able to do quite as much with the garden this summer, but members of the church made sure that she still received produce on a regular basis.

“God’s work is in all of this,” said Bailey, who has remained positive and reports that her tumors are shrinking. “We were meant to be brought together for this garden. For the people of Hastings to get so much produce that’s been prayed over . . . that’s amazing, that’s God’s love being spread around.”

After the first summer with the garden, Klaus said the church was debating whether to do it for a second year. After hearing Tammy’s story, it was decided: The garden will continue.

“It’s just an absolute win…for everybody involved,” said Klaus. “You feel like you’re doing something good. You’re close to God and creation. There are a million gardening references in Bible. It’s cool how it all comes together for this. I had no idea what God had in mind.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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