Friday, March 18, 2016

Earth Action Reflection Theology and Hope

The Kirk Community Garden – A Leap of Faith 
by Rich Woynicz

In the fall of 2011 I was approached by a Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church member who asked, “How can we support the Kirk’s Earthcare Mission? What about building a community garden at the Kirk?” 
In the Spring of 2012 the Kirk Community Garden was born from an Eagle Scout project to build 6 raised beds. Since then our missions have been to:
  • grow a community garden to increase hunger awareness
  • better connect to our community neighbors
  • allow bonds to deepen through work in small groups
  • offer a great educational opportunity in sustainable, organic gardening.
The garden was a success from day one. We focused on making the garden functional and beautiful. The beauty of the garden draws people in, and being close to the street, we attract numerous neighbors walking by. A grant from the Town of Cary, NC gave us financial backing to expand. We quickly grew from 6 to 12 to 18 beds, and then added rain barrels, compost bins, and vertical structures – 4800 square feet of garden and edible landscaping.  
But we also grew in outreach. Through community talks, visiting groups such as home schooled and University students, we reached out beyond ourselves. Today we are proud that on any workday, more than 2/3 of the gardeners are from outside the Kirk.
Since the garden workdays were Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, most food banks were not open. By contacting the director at the Apex food pantry, we were granted access to their building for off hours donations. This summer, the Kirk started a local food pantry and “Backpack Buddies” program. The garden now also donates its produce to these programs.  Through our 500 pounds of food donated annually, we give some local residents more nutritious, organically grown food which they might not otherwise have.
But we have further to go. The part of town where the Kirk is located is aging and will eventually become a downtown church. The neighborhood has more low income residents, many Hispanic. We need to be able to reach out to these groups to pull them into the garden and to grow more of what they eat.
As a final, but sad note, the Kirk Garden may have to shut down as a planned, new building would require a water retention pond where the garden is today. We are hoping to relocate it to a partner church up the street or donate the beds and materials to other needy community gardens. We hope to rebuild in mid 2017 so that the Garden can be reborn in a new location on the Kirk property, smaller and with a changed mission, but still bringing beauty and outreach opportunities.
Rich Woynicz has been gardening since he was 5 years old and has more than 25 years of gardening in "tough-to-grow anything" North Carolina. An engineer by training (and his day job), he loves to "get way from technology" by getting his hands in the dirt in the evenings and on the weekends. He was certified as an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Wake County, NC - July 2015 through which he shares his knowledge of community gardens with others.

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