Madison HeightsJune 21, 2012
Local church welcomes community to use garden
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
MADISON HEIGHTS — Right now, there’s a garden where you’re free to come any time of the day or night, from anywhere, and take anything you want.
You don’t have to talk to anyone, fill out any forms or answer any questions. If you need some fresh vegetables, just swing by and take what you will.
But know this: The garden is built on trust, trust that people will take only what they need and leave some for others. This way, everyone in the community can be fed. And while you’re there, why not pull a few weeds to help out?
This is the Victory Garden, on the south end of the United Methodist Church of Madison Heights, 246 E. 11 Mile near John R.
“Nothing goes to waste,” said Deliza Lee, the church’s administrative assistant. “The first year (2010), people kind of neglected the garden; now they should take what they need. We encourage people to reap the harvest and help themselves. Whatever is left when we do harvest will be taken over to the senior citizen complex.”
Volunteers are needed to keep it going. An orientation will be held at the church from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, July 12. Volunteers will learn how to naturally grow produce in the garden and help distribute it to neighbors who might be unable to come themselves.
The garden is full of variety: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, carrots, beets, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini squash, leeks, onions, green beans, herbs and more. The garden is also accented with flowers for color.
“We want to promote healthier eating, eating fruits and vegetables, and especially not having pesticide, which is used in most commercially grown vegetables,” said Alexis Dunmire, lay leader at United Methodist. “Many people are hurting at this time: Elderly people are getting less money, living off what they have, many on Social Security, and I think a lot of people, when they lost work, had to cut back on groceries.”
The district superintendent gave $1,000 to each church within the Detroit Renaissance District of the United Methodist Church, tasking them with putting it back into the community. This got the garden started this year. Other individuals at the church helped purchase plants, seeds, tomato cages and other materials, including half-inch PVC pipe fittings to frame the plots.
Each plot is a square foot, 64 plots per grid; there are around a half-dozen grids in the overall garden. The square-foot concept is easier to maintain than traditional row gardening: Water is conserved, as it’s not wasted on the space between rows, and the compact plots make it simpler to reach in for weeding and harvesting.
Work began in March, when Dunmire’s husband tilled the soil. The cold snap postponed the planting until a month ago. The official groundbreaking was June 9.
Rhonda Osterman, pastor at United Methodist, said next year she predicts the garden will double in size.
“I’m saying that on faith, that people will see the impact the garden can have, and people will be excited and willing to contribute and be a part of it, not just the church community but the Madison Heights community and even the surrounding areas.”
She said the garden helps strengthen bonds between the church and others through a year-round display of unconditional love.
“This is a way we can really reach forward and let people know we’re an active church that wants to be engaged with the community and have an impact,” Osterman said. “Hopefully, it helps the community by opening that level of communication.
“We’re called as Christians to love and care for one another, and one way we can do that is by trusting people in the community,” she said. “Maybe some will take advantage. But most won’t.”
The Victory Garden is located on the south end of the United Methodist Church of Madison Heights, 246 E. 11 Mile near John R. An orientation for volunteers to help grow and distribute produce will be held at the church from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, July 12. For more information, call the church at (248) 544-3544.
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