Dr. Norman Hubbard, pastor at Pine Grove UMC, said the church got the idea for the community garden from a pastor in Asheville.
“They were growing vegetables and giving them away to help people in need and to connect with the community,” he said.
Wendi Johnson, member of Pine Grove UMC, said they started the garden in March. Wanting to give to a local charity, Pine Grove UMC chose Crisis Control Ministry.
“We know Crisis Control Ministry has a lot of people coming through there and we know people know to go there,” Hubbard stated. “Knowing there are people in need there, we wanted to provide fresh produce to people that might not be able to purchase them.”
“We have taken food to Crisis Control about eight times already,” Johnson said.
Johnson noted that they are also providing fresh produce to families that have children who attend Piney Grove Elementary School.
“We partner with Piney Grove Elementary for support and we wanted them to know this was a source for folks in need at this school,” she explained.
Johnson added that before starting the garden, the church expressed an interest for the garden to the congregation. She said since that time, many members have come forward to help out.
“We have a lot of farming talent in our church and a lot of people have learned how to garden,” Hubbard stated. “We have learned how and when to plant and for a small church we have a lot of volunteers.”
Johnson added, “We have even had volunteers pick produce in the rain. We have found that some vegetables need to be picked soon after they start producing even if it means picking them in the rain.”
Hubbard said others have come forward to provide much needed labor and supplies.
“Webster Brothers in Walkertown gave us a discount on our plants and one of our members, Monty Beeson, has done all of the plowing and spraying and has helped us identify what needed to be picked and when,” he said.
In their community garden, Pine Grove UMC has grown numerous vegetables, including green beans, crowder peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, green peppers, squash, zucchini, okra, onions and herbs.
Johnson noted that along with the garden having become a way to bring the congregation closer, it has also become a learning experience for the church’s youth.
“For our Vacation Bible School, our theme is ‘Hay Day.’ We wanted to incorporate the theme in with the garden, so the young kids are picking potatoes, cooking them and making French fries. They are also using tomatoes from the garden to make spaghetti sauce,” she said.
Along with cooking, the children will learn other lessons from the community garden.
“A lot of kids have never seen where their food comes from,” Johnson said. “This will also give them a chance to pick produce for other needy children to learn a lesson on giving to others.”
Other members of the church are also using the garden as a teaching tool.
“Robin Gautier got a recipe from a senior in our church, Lou Sears, during a picnic several years ago. Lou made pickles and they were a hit. Now Robin will teach the other women how to make the pickles,” Johnson remarked.
Hubbard said they feel fortunate that they have had a lot of rain this spring and summer and plan to adjust what they are growing each year to the needs of Crisis Control.
“Our first year has gone extremely well and we look forward to next year,” he said.
If anyone is interested in fresh produce, connecting with the church, getting involved with the garden or learning more about gardening, call the church at 336-996-4838.