By: Christine Kumar, Interpreter Magazine
The ground was prepared. The soil was tilled, fertilized and ready for the planting and harvesting of 2,000 pounds of tomatoes, beans, leeks, sweet peas, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. It was all so that people in the changing Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie could eat.
Eden Prairie has many large homes with swimming pools, tennis courts, and immaculate yards. The thought that this community also has people who go to bed hungry was hard to believe until the people of Eden Prairie United Methodist Church looked beyond their walls and learned who is in their neighborhood.
"It began as a Healthy Church Initiative," said the Rev. Dan Schneider-Bryan, pastor. Assessing the needs of its changing community, the congregation realized that their immigrant neighbors could not afford fresh produce regularly. They decided to get their hands dirty for the love of God and their community. Members also donated financially to support the garden.
"The church's 55-feet-by-55-feet plot was a perfect size," Schneider-Bryan said. Eden Prairie also has members Lois and Eric Hyde, who love to garden but have a small yard. Lois Hyde spearheaded the Healthy Church Initiative and recruited church members to tend the garden. The space is broken into eight plots. A head gardener recruits volunteers who plant, weed, water, and harvest the vegetables.
"Many of the church volunteers are passionate about gardening," said Schneider-Bryan. "We even had the Minnesota Vikings groundskeeper help us by tilling the soil with his rototiller."
The church donates fresh vegetables to People Reaching Out to People (PROP), a local agency that also helps those in need with clothes and financial assistance. "We are cultivating spirituality in vegetables," said Schneider-Bryan.
The congregation plans to continue the garden as long as the community needs fresh produce. Schneider-Bryan said members have also helped surrounding churches start their own gardens and have coordinated what each grows to ensure a variety of vegetables to donate to PROP.
Christine Kumar is a reporter for Interpreter Magazine.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church