Resources for Starting a Faith Based Community Garden – 2013

George Fox students help out in the Mustard Seed Garden

George Fox students help out in the Mustard Seed Garden

Each year, as you know I like to update my resource lists. Here are the best sites and suggestions I have come across since I posted my list last year. I have already written some comments on the topic of community gardens this year:

Creating A Faith Based Community Garden – Much to Reflect On

And if this does not provide enough reading for you, you might also like to check out this list of resources for urban farmers:

My Top 10 Urban Farming Books

My Favourite Urban Farming WebSites

Note: This is partly reposted from last year’s list with some additions and deletions where links have changed.

Resources for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden

Some resources from my friends at ARocha Canada

And from England

  • Grow Zones – a community growing resource started by Earth Abbey in the UK, that brings people together locally to help one another grow fruit and vegetables in their own gardens. Participants are supported by the Grow Zones Kit, which is designed to make the prospect of growing fruit and vegetables a less burdensome, more enjoyable prospect and overcome the obstacles to ‘growing your own’.
  • Earth Abbey

As well as my own book To Garden with God, you may also find the following books on spirituality and gardening helpful

Resources-Curricula for Churches / Faith communities

From Catholic Community Gardens

Some of these ideas are a little repetitive but I also loved: 

And of course there are dozens of seed calalogues and websites which also often include very helpful newsletters and videos on how to grow vegetables.  My favourites  are:

This year I have taken Seeds of Change off my list (see explanation here)






Creating A Faith Based Community Garden – Much to Reflect On

Time to plant seeds

Time to plant seeds

Garden season is underway here in the Pacific NW. I have already planted lettuce, spinach, Chinese greens, mesculin mix, cabbages, cauliflowers and peas inside on the front porch. This morning I emailed our burgeoning garden community of those keen to get their hands in the dirt. (If you would like to join us once a month for fellowship and a shared time of gardening please let me know.)

All of this has meant I am doing a lot of reflecting on creating a faith based community garden. There are some excellent websites and articles out there to help with this and I have blogged about them in previous years

More Resources for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden

Tips for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 1

Tips For Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 2

This year my thoughts have revolved around the concept of community garden, especially in faith based gardens. So few encourage community. Sometimes the plots are even surrounded by fences that say in no uncertain terms – this is mine.  Often the work for tending the plots falls to one or two people who often religiously tend everyone else’s space. Sometimes the produce goes bad because people are too busy to harvest it.

For me there are three must do requirements for a faith based community garden:

  1. Create community. One church I heard of invited the congregation out into the garden once a month after the morning service to help weed and tend the crops. That truly is a community garden. For us at the Mustard Seed House inviting others to our monthly garden days has increased the feel of community and extended it to a broader community as well. Sometimes we can also create a deeper sense of community with our neighbours just by being out in the front yard, and when a church plants a garden in its front yard and the neighbours walk past it makes a statement about the congregation’s concern for their community too.
  2. Create a sacred space. Every garden should have a sacred space. At the least this should be a place that invites us to sit and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. It should stir all the senses of sight, sound, taste, feel and smell. I will reflect on this more later in the week
  3. Provide opportunities to share. The garden has taught me much about the economic views of our God who provides abundantly far more than we can ever use on our own. This abundance is meant to be shared – with the marginalized in gifts to food banks and community kitchens as well as with our friends and neighbours in harvest celebrations. So make sure that you plan at least one garden party this year where the garden produce has pride of place in the food on the table.

My Favourite Urban Farming Sites

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

This morning I posted a link to this inspiring article An Urban Farm in Portland Feeds Local Neighbourhood with Help from the Disabled It comes from one of my favourite urban farm sites City Farmer News.  That made me realize that it is a while since I have posted any urban garden resources so I thought it was time to change that.

Here is the list that I posted last year in More Resources for Creating a Faith based Community Garden

Here are some other great sites to check out:

City Farmer News. This really is a site worth spending some time on. It is based in Vancouver but shares stories from all round the world.

Growing Cities provides a great hub for the urban farming movement in the US but also includes stories from all over the world.

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. I love this inspiring example of creativity – rooftop farming on the top of an old bagel factor in Brooklyn NY

Reading International Solidarity Centre. This site has some great information on English urban gardens – from rooftops to schools.

Urban Beekeeping for those keen to have there own honey

Vertical Veg  another great UK site for those that need to grow up rather than out.

Community Gardens At A Rocha Community gardens are growing in number and size across Canada and elsewhere. A Rocha resources help facilitate starting and maintaining a community garden. Hopefully A Rocha US will soon start a similar network in the US.

Backyard for those wanting to join the current craze for keeping chickens.

Obviously there are many sites out there with great resources for the urban farmer. What are your favourites?


What Are Your Favourite Seed Catalogues?

Garden catalogues everywhere

Garden catalogues everywhere

It is that time of the year again – at least here in Seattle. The mail is flooded with seed catalogues and my email is alive with news on spring planting. There are so many options to choose from that it is hard to know where to begin. So how do we make the decisions?

If you can’t get outside yet here are a couple of websites that you might like to check out to at least give you the feel of being outside.  They are great planning tools.

BBC’s Virtual Garden – it has a fun 3D function on the site and is free

Kitchen Garden Planner – part of the Gardener’s Supply website which is one of my favourite places to look for seed starter supplies and self watering pots.  This is also free. I use it each year to help plan the vegetable garden, though it is a little limited on vegetable varieties to chose from. They also have some excellent garden how to information.

And if your looking for more information on how to go organic my Texas based friends love The Dirt Doctor – Howard Garrett This website has some great hints for gardening on it.  The garden design function costs $20/year

Of course this is also a great time to drool over all those wonderful photos in the seed catalogues that in your saner moments you know won’t grow in your climate zone but which you just can’t resist when it is too cold to grow anything anyway.

I always like to buy from those companies that specialize in heritage and organic seed like:

Seeds of Change

Seed Savers Exchange

Bountiful Gardens

Peaceful Valley Organic Seeds & Supplies

and a couple of new ones I heard about this year:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

High Mowing Organic Seeds

For my Canadian friends

Richter’s seeds

West Coast Seeds

or those that are based in the local Pacific NW area

Territorial Seeds

Raintree Nursery

Nichol’s Garden Nursery – going virtual this year with only an online catalogue

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds in Ellensburg WA

Uprising Organic Seeds in Bellingham WA

Unfortunately I also cannot resist a couple of big company catalogues like the English classic  Thompson and Morgan and Park Seeds which have products I can’t seem to find anywhere else. And my favourite for lettuce and other salad greens The Cook’s Garden. I particularly love their Zen oriental green – it is mild in flavour and delicious in salads or cooked.

Tips for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 1

I mentioned a few days ago when I posted the list of resources for developing a faith based community garden, that I would post the article I had written for in parts.  This is the first part of the article – part 2 will be posted tomorrow:

Community garden Lynden Washington

Vegetable gardening has been one major response to the economic recession. Tough economic times have sent people everywhere scurrying for garden books and packets of seed.  In 2009 an estimated 9 million Americans started gardens to supplement their diets. Even the White House planted an organic garden to supplement the presidential salads.  Community gardens are springing up in church parking lots, housing projects, and school playgrounds.  And in some urban areas on vacant blocks of land that have stood empty for years.

There are many reasons to start a church based community garden.  The most common motivation for faith-based community gardens is the opportunity to help those in need, especially during these turbulent times.  Others are concerned for their young and want to provide locally grown organic food and enable them to develop healthy eating habits.  Still others are motivated by the desire to heal our earth or want to provide a beautiful green space for their congregations and neighbors to enjoy God’s good creation.

A community garden is not just a place to grow food.  It is a way to express our faith and interact with God and God’s good creation.   Perhaps one reason God created human beings to tend the garden is because God knew that it is in the midst of a garden that we connect most intimately to the character and ways of our Creator.  Edythe Neumann who is helping Highland Community Church in Abbotsford British Columbia establish a garden commented:

The act of gardening can teach us something about ourselves, about our interdependence with the world of nature, about the relationships between work and creativity, and about how we might begin to discern those spiritual facts that elude us in other aspects of life.  Gardening can also be an expression of community and conversation – another way to say that God is with us on the earth, a way to picture God’s presence with us – through the gifts of nature and gardening together.

Church based community gardens require a lot of planning.  Bring together a small group of passionate individuals who really want to see this happen.  Before getting into discussions about garden logistics, talk about why you feel this is important as a church activity.  What are the benefits you hope the congregation and the neighborhood will gain?  How will it help people connect more intimately to each other and to God? What are the values and characteristics of God’s kingdom that this garden could portray?

Jeff showing off tomatoes at Five Loaves Farm Lynden

Jeff Littleton, who helped establish Five Loaves farm which is developing a network of community gardens on church properties in Lynden Washington told me:

The garden teaches at least two key messages beyond that of vegetables or lady bugs.  One is for our church: to share, to cooperate with, to relax, to enjoy each and everybody whatever faith or worldview.  The other is for our community: their capturing that these “church people” can be trusted, they do live out what they say, they love us… and ‘I want to know why.’  Somehow, some way this joint experience will transform lives and transform communities under God’s care.”

For me personally, the garden is a constant unfolding of new revelations about God.  Fostering community  and generosity are probably the most important kingdom values I have learned from involvement in community gardens.

Working together as a church community provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment and offers tremendous opportunity to strengthen intergenerational ties as young and old work side by side, weeding, watering and planting.  You may even like to designate a special area as a children’s garden where children are allowed to choose what grows and when it is harvested.  At our small intentional community, the Mustard Seed House we grow about 50% of our own vegetables.  Seven year old Catie not only gets a chance to introduce new vegetable varieties each year, she is also my best year round helper.  A few weeks ago she practiced her newly developed writing skills making markers for our tomato seedlings.

Catie decorates markers for tomato seedlings

Starting a Faith-based Community Garden

Community garden Lynden WA

I am doing some research in preparation for my Spirituality of Gardening seminars in Seattle and Lynden in a couple of weeks and thought that some of you might be interested in some of the resources I have come across on starting a faith based community garden.  A number of the participants at my seminars are in the midst of helping their churches start community gardens and it is good to know that there are some great resources out there.  Here are some of the best that I have found:

Tips for Starting a Faith Based Community Garden

Faith Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships in the Age of Obama

Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina: Growing Communities Through Gardens

One of the best blogs I have found on faith based gardening is Sparks in the Soil

I will continue to add to this list over the next few weeks if you are interested and would love to hear from those of you that have other resources to add to the list too.