January 13, 2015

Celebrating Faith Community Gardens

Sharon Varghese

Sharon Varghese

Research Assistant, Baltimore Food and Faith

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

faith-garden1“We have our kids line up at the hose, cup water in their hands, and run back to the plants to sprinkle it on them,” said one congregant. Another talked about the gardens they grow in discarded tires. Still another shared the different methods her church has tried to keep their gardens free from pests, and the different fruits and vegetables they grew over different seasons.

All of these narratives and more were told at Epiphany Episcopal Church during the Baltimore Food and Faith Project (BFFP) 5th Annual Faith Community Garden Celebration dinner. In the past year, BFFP gave grants to 13 organizations for food-related projects. This celebration invited BFFP’s 45 historic grant recipients in honor of the hard work these organizations have done in creating and growing beautiful gardens.

faithgarden-dinnerIn preparing for the event, we encouraged recipients to send us their favorite garden pictures so that we could make a video montage for the event highlighting their work. During those weeks of preparation, a plethora of photos came in from our proud gardeners, eager to share the memories of their gardens in the making, families and friends getting their hands in the soil, colorful fresh vegetables, and much more. There was an abundance of responsiveness and cheer.

The night of the celebration dinner, we set up catered food from Atwaters Bakery: Hungarian mushroom soup, chicken noodle soup, chunks of assorted bread, and field greens salad with toasted nuts, seasonal fruit and cheese. A selection of Atwater’s ginger lime and lemon poundcake bites, cookies and brownies were served for dessert. We decorated our tables with crisp fall colors and Sweet Williams edible flowers on the tables.

As recipients came through the door, we played our video montage for them. Many stopped in excitement to see their own photos as well as the submissions from the other recipients. Once everyone settled in, Reverend Kristopher of Epiphany Episcopal gave a word of prayer of thanksgiving over our food and our time together.

The purpose of our dinner was not only to honor the work our recipients have done, but for them to get to know each other better and foster a stronger sense of community among all the grant recipients. As we sat and ate dinner together, I could see this happening. As the recipients went around and shared who they are and what they are doing, they asked each other thoughtful questions, gave each other gardening tips, offered affirmations of each other’s struggles, and shared encouragement with each other. To see the enthusiasm and sense of community our gardeners have, and want to develop further, was the most impactful part of this event. They love what they do, see a purpose behind it, and want to encourage each other along the way. Toward the end of the night, the recipients brought up the idea of creating a community group where they can continue to share with each other and keep in contact feasibly. We’re in the process of making that happen for them.

All in all, our community celebration dinner was a success. We’re thankful for all who came out, and we congratulate all our grant recipients for the great work they did these past years. We’re looking forward to closer community and more gardening stories in the year ahead.

Images: Lee Truelove (top) and Darriel Harris (bottom).

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