Many churches and community organizations sponsor community gardens to use their members’ gardening expertise to help people in need. It’s a wonderful idea, but what does community gardening entail?
I’ve invited my brother, Tom Kincaid, an avid gardener and member of Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopal church in Kansas City, to share his experience working in a community garden.
Terry: Welcome, Tom, and thanks for letting me interview you. Who does your community garden serve and how long have you participated?
Tom: I’ve been involved in the Good Shepherd community garden for three years. It serves the Kansas City Community Kitchen, and in conjunction with Episcopal Services, they feed approximately 500-600 needy people five days per week. We agree to send 50% of everything grown in the garden to the KC Community Kitchen, although it ends up we send closer to 75% of most crops.
Terry: How big is the garden?
Tom: The garden is 75 feet by 70 feet. The soil was plowed from pasture land a dozen or more years ago and each year we add more fertilizer and mulch. It is very good soil.
Terry: Do you have a water hook-up nearby?
Tom: We have a water hydrant just about 10 feet from the garden and have long hoses that can reach most parts of the garden.
Terry: How many people work in the garden and how are the responsibilities divided up?
Tom: There are five people currently involved with the garden, although most of the work falls to three of us. One elderly lady works exclusively with the planting and harvesting of the okra. Another gentleman works almost exclusively with the broccoli, cabbage, and beets.
The garden is divided roughly into quarters with three family units having a quarter and then one quarter is devoted to tomatoes and peppers for all. The okra is grown in a couple of rows along one side of the garden. The quarters are rotated in a clockwise fashion each year to prevent repeat planting of crops. Flowers, usually zinnias and marigolds, are planted at the entrance and the sides of the garden for everyone’s use to cut for arrangements.
Terry: How do you decide what to plant?
Tom: We ask the Community Kitchen chef what they need. Since many area churches also have community gardens, we try to grow produce to meet their specific needs. For example, we are not growing as many tomato plants since the Community Kitchen gets lots of tomatoes donated during the summer season. We grow more hot peppers than we did previously.
We also meet as a committee each January or February and review what was grown the previous year and then by consensus we agree on what is to be grown in each of our quarters.
Terry: What will you plant this year?
Tom: Our main crops are sweet potatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, collard greens, Swiss chard, okra, broccoli, beets, and turnips. We decided to grow kale for the first time this year.
Some space is left in our quarter for us to grow vegetables that appeal only to us. In my section, I will grow for my own use some sugar snap peas. We usually share with one another anything that is grown in the garden. I share produce from my quarter with several elderly folk.
Terry: Where do you get your seeds and plants?
Tom: Most of the seeds are acquired from Planters Seed Co located in the River Market area of Kansas City, though some are also purchased from seed catalogs and bought in bulk.
Check in tomorrow and I’ll post the remainder of my interview with Tom. If you have any questions regarding the community garden, please let me know in the comments section. See you tomorrow!