By L. T. Sparrow and Esther Frank
Master Gardener and friend of Rev. Judy Boroto, L. T. Sparrow, led efforts to build the West Alice Community Garden thanks to a long-time dream for a community garden that had been germinating in the hearts and minds within a group of people at Faith United Methodist Church, and our partner, Samoan Assembly of God Church of Phoenix.
Faith UMC is an inclusive* Christian congregation dedicated to the care of its constituents in order to serve the local community and in co-operation with other faith-based organizations, to reach out to all persons* who seek personal acceptance, require sustaining assistance, or yearn for a meaningful life purpose beyond self. *Regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender-identity, race, or sexual orientation.
On September 16, 2013 our team of dreamers gathered together to present their plan for a community garden on the campus of Faith UMC. This concept was taken to the church’s Board of Trustees. The board approved the self-sustained project and identified an unused playground on the church campus that could be re-purposed as long as it didn’t create a hardship for the church. That night the dream grew into a vision and in the following weeks it became the mission statement for the garden—to grow healthy fruits and vegetables in plots open to interested parties, and in so doing to build a sense of community, provide an educational experience, and make nutritious food available to the hungry. It was decided that most of the produce from the garden would benefit Desert Mission Food Bank. The word “community” took on new meaning as it was paired with garden, and “garden” opened a whole new world of challenges and possibilities.
The team placed invitation flyers for the initial planning meeting at the local grocery store so that the garden could be a community effort from the start. People from two other churches and non-church people came. In the beginning it seemed to some, an impossible dream. Obstacles seemed insurmountable with a lack of resources and funding staring everyone in the face. But while the majority of dreamers held on to the dream, a few took the dream and ran with it. They met faithfully nearly every Sunday, hammering out the details, brainstorming, and d
esigning until a basic plan was formed. Then, they began to put one of the most basic principles into action:
“Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7.
The team began to “ask” and to “seek” and to “knock” on the doors of merchants and the generous hearts of individuals for the materials and funding needed to build a community garden. Volunteers from HandsOn Greater Phoenix helped tear down all the wooden structures that were on the playground while church members helped in the “deconstruction” and “re-purposing” of the wood. After the labor-intensive ground work was completed within two hours, the following month workers from Phoenix Metro agreed to bulldoze and haul away most of the sand that was on the land. The month after that, enough money was raised and free labor had been completed that the garden could finally be built. Within four months, an abandoned playground had been transformed, and all the materials needed to build eight 4’ x 8’ beds were ready and waiting.
Dedication and first planting
Members of Faith UMC, the community, and various organizations gathered on February 15, 2014 to dedicate the West Alice Community Garden and complete the first planting. A brief project history was given by Sparrow as she listed and thanked all those who had helped to make the garden a reality, which included the steering committee, local businesses, volunteers from Phoenix Business Journal in cooperation with HandsOn Greater Phoenix, crews from Valley Metro Light Rail, the Valley Permaculture Alliance, Faith UMC Board of Trustees, and many others.
It was a wonderful way to begin the New Year, building not only the infrastructure for a new garden, but building and growing new friendships. Sowing, not just vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds, but seeds of hope, peace, joy, and love. Our church members extended the mantle of compassion beyond the building that is called the “sanctuary” by including the land that surrounded it. Neighbors and passersby will begin to see new life and activity which will spark interest and curiosity. New friends will be made, and the dream of a garden community will flourish.
Want to learn how to start a community garden?
- Check out the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities. https://communitygarden.org
- Fundraising for this project was done within a five-mile radius of the church.
- An in-line water meter was installed to record water usage for reimbursement purposes.
- Each garden bed is either privately rented or sponsored at $65 per growing season. This revenue covers the cost of the water used.
Regional Media Center recommends:
This is an excellent documentary for anyone concerned about caring for creation, living a sustainable lifestyle, the purity of the food chain, and practicing a God-centered view of stewardship.
Our impact on earth has the potential to be destructive or constructive depending on how we choose to live. This documentary comprised of many stories is engaging, powerful, inspirational, and instructive. It can be used by anyone concerned about a sustainable future.