When Faith Christian Reformed Church in Nashville, Tenn., was built, the congregation planned to use the field beyond the church to construct another parking lot when the congregation grew. But now that field is being used for a different kind of growth. For almost five years, the congregation has provided community gardens for anyone in the neighborhood to tend.
Zucchini, tomatoes, okra, and other favorites grow in 50 raised beds complete with an irrigation system. Gardeners agree to take care of their beds by weeding, fertilizing, and making sure they are free of litter and trash. Some of the beds are handicap-accessible.
Pastor Jerry Hoek said several people and groups from the surrounding neighborhood use the beds to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, including a Hispanic women’s group and a group of people from Myanmar, also known as Burma. “We’re on the edge of a diverse community,” Hoek explained.
The local school, Tusculum Elementary, also uses some of the garden beds. Last year, Faith CRC reserved the produce from 10 of the garden beds for the school. Many of the students at the school live below the poverty line. Lettuce, beans, and 150 pounds (68 kg) of sweet potatoes all went to the school, Hoek said.
A grant from the CRC’s Sustaining Congregational Excellence Program helps fund the garden.