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Sharing God’s gardening gifts

May 20, 2011 One Comment

This spring, grow more than you need and share with others

by James Morgan

As you go about planting your vegetable garden this spring, keep these words in mind from the hymn For the Fruits of His Creation in Lutheran Service Book: “For the plowing, sowing, reaping, Silent growth while we are sleeping, Future needs in earth’s safe-keeping, Thanks be to God.”

How often do you find yourself with more home-grown produce than you can use? How about purposely planting more fruits and vegetables than you need so you can help others? That’s what the Plant a Row, Grow a Row program is all about.

Plant a Row, Grow a Row started in Winnipeg 25 years ago as a way of encouraging home gardeners to donate any extra produce they have to the Winnipeg Harvest food bank. Since then, the program has raised nearly three million pounds of vegetables for food banks in Manitoba and has spread across Canada and the United States and is now run by Food Banks Canada and the American Garden Writers Association.

Anyone can plan to support Plant a Row, Grow a Row. Bruce Zimmerman, host of the Open-Line Garden Show on 105.1FM “The River” (CFLZ) in Niagara Falls, Ontario says participants do not have to sign up, nobody comes to inspect your garden, and there are no consequences if crops fail during the growing season. He adds that farmers in the produce-rich Niagara region are encouraged to donate any of their excess crops. Zimmerman notes that fresh produce is usually in short supply at food banks. “There are never enough fresh fruits and vegetables as they are harder to come by, generally more expensive, and so the food banks always focus on non-perishable, processed food,” he says.

Aside from individuals, congregations can also play a role in supporting programs like Plant a Row, Grow a Row. St. Matthew Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church–Canada congregation in downtown Calgary has been doing it for several years. Miriam Winstanley, now the Director of Parish Services at Calgary’s Foothills Lutheran Church says she helped get the project underway as a youth initiative with donated seeds from members. Heather Graham-Navis now oversees the project and says involvement has grown beyond the youth to include younger children, senior citizens, and even people who don’t attend the church regularly.

Children have been surprised to find out that potatoes actually grow underground

“We have many older folks in our congregation who can’t work in a garden anymore but can contribute some seeds or small plants for the kids to look after,” reports Graham-Navis, adding that she gets every child involved, including those who attend vacation Bible school at St. Matthew. She further states that the adults often get involved with the less fun aspect of gardening, pulling weeds.

The surplus food from St. Matthew’s garden goes to the Mustard Seed, a local food bank. Graham-Navis says the garden is not only a good way to help the food bank and the people who use it, but it also teaches children in the inner city about where their food comes from. She says children have been surprised to find out that potatoes actually grow underground.

So, when you’re at the store buying those little packets of seeds, or at the greenhouse sorting through tomato plants, consider planting an extra row to help the hungry in your community. Suggest the idea to groups within your congregation too. For more information on Plant a Row, Grow a Row, contact your local food bank or check out the program’s website www.growarow.org.  

“In the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done. In our world-wide task of caring, For the hungry and despairing, In the harvests we are sharing, God’s will is done. (from verse 2 of From the Fruits of His Creation, Hymn 894, Lutheran Service Book

James Morgan is a freelance writer and member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kurtzville, Ontario.