June 30, 2014

We recently caught up with friends from Grace United Methodist Church in Emporia, Kansas, while attending the annual meeting of the Great Plains Conference, in Lincoln, NE. The Rev. Susan Daniel-Brey, pastor of the church, stopped by our booth to share her passion about the community garden that her church launched this spring with the help of the Big Garden. We are excited to share their progress.

Initial planning for the garden began late last summer, led by Lola Jane Collinge of the church's Heath & Wellness Committee. The garden is located on an empty lot across the street from the church. The land was purchased several years ago and had an old house on it, which was later demolished. Since then the lot has remained vacant.

When asked why they wanted to start a community garden, Collinge says, "I have long had the desire to have a community garden, so last July a group got together and began the planning. We are located in a mainly Hispanic neighborhood, and we felt this would be a way to get acquainted with our neighbors and their customs, as well as provide good food, exercise and education. Each month we have a picnic in the garden, which has been well attended by both the neighborhood and the congregation."

According to church member Bobbie Mlynar, "Lola Jane has been so determined to get the garden rolling, and even in her 80s has worked like a 30 year-old getting it put together, it's something very close to her heart." Collinge quips, "Contrary to what Bobbi says, I have not been working like a 30 year-old---no 30 year-old in their right mind would work this hard!"

In February, the church posted a banner to let people know what was happening in their community (see pic below). The church broke ground on the garden this spring, building raised beds on the church property. By May, some of the beds were already planted, and they held an open house event to welcome people to the garden.

Produce will likely be distributed in a variety of ways, though final decisions have yet to be made: some may go home with families who work in the garden, some may be shared with friends, and some will be sold in the church's Sunday mini-market that raises funds to provide milk for the local Abundant Harvest meal program.

We are excited to see the unfolding of this garden. To learn more, follow La Bonita Garden of Grace on Facebook.