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Winnipeg Church Uses Land to Grow ‘Garden of Hope’

Volunteers transplant vegetable seedlings in Covenant CRC’s Garden of Hope, May 31.

Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Winnipeg, Man., has dedicated a half-acre of its property to grow food for its community, planting vegetables, apples, and berries in a Garden of Hope. The church congregants were motivated in part by a high rate of food insecurity in their province. Food Banks Canada gave a grade of D- for that poverty measure in 2023, ranking food insecurity at 19.6 % in Manitoba. Covenant CRC wanted to be part of the solution.

Local farmer Roland Reenders, along with other congregants with agricultural backgrounds, began work to create the garden in 2022. They tilled up the half-acre behind the church building to prepare it for planting. Pastor Ben Verkerk applied for funding, including requesting a $5,000 grant from the Christian Reformed Church of North America Church Revitalization Grant and Loan Fund. Covenant CRC dedicated church funds to finance the project, and individual church members also donated toward the cause.

With the funding secured and plot tilled, a small portion was planted with winter squash in 2023. At harvest the church was able to donate over 3,000 pounds of squash to local organizations, including The Riverton &District Friendship Center and the Indigenous Family Center.

This year the crops have increased, adding beets, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage to the winter squash. Volunteers have planned the garden to suit the space, planting on a south-facing slope and incorporating planted trees as a windbreak. They plan for fencing around individual trees and shrubs to stop deer and rabbit browsing. In front of the windbreak volunteers planted 12 dwarf apple trees on the last weekend in May and installed an irrigation system at the same time.

Because the church is in the city of Winnipeg it’s convenient for church volunteers to deliver produce to local organizations and for other organizations to come and harvest the produce themselves. The Indigenous Family Center is about six miles (a little less than 10 km) from the church, while the church itself is on the northeast side of the city, with access to several neighborhoods.

“We hope through volunteerism and a shared vision, we will build community within the church,” said Joanna Wassenaar, one of the church garden volunteers. “The Garden of Hope is a stewardly use of our property and acts as a clear and tangible way in which the church is serving the world.”

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