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First Christian Reformed Church in Sarnia, Ontario, has turned a plot of unused land into what they jokingly call a “garden of eatin’.” The land had sat vacant for four years after the parsonage, no longer in use, was removed.

This year, a local nonprofit group called “One Tomato Project,” led by a member of the CRC, approached the church to request a partnership in starting a garden on the plot. The church council agreed.

On a cold Saturday in April, volunteers from the church and community joined to dig the 30-by-60-foot garden. Unlike many community gardens, which allow each gardener a plot within the larger garden, the garden at First CRC is a single large plot that is planted, maintained, and harvested by anyone who chooses to be involved. Much of the maintenance has been done by First CRC members, but project member Linda Weening noted, “We have an info box on the signpost explaining what is ready to pick, and anyone may pick! We advertise Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 8 as ‘garden work time,’ and often we meet neighbors there at that time.”

Through the garden, connections have been made between church members and the AA group that meets in the church building. Any produce that is ripe and needs to be picked is harvested and brought to a local food bank, creating another community connection.

With such an open project, there were some concerns about the possibility of vandalism, but so far there has been none. An unusual feature in the garden is a sofa, covered in sod, which volunteers built while the garden was being dug, where people can sit and chat. As Weening pointed out, it’s “just another opportunity to build community”.

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