A Seed Planted and a Garden Grown

Five years ago, the Green Team at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin had the idea to plant a garden in the large lawn on the west side of their church. Little did they know at the time it would go this far.

The chair of the Green Team, Sandy Roberts, said, “We were just planting a small mustard seed at the time, but look what it has become.” The project took off when a long time member of the church and a master gardener, Mark Trinklein, took over the plan and enlisted the help of other church members and some local residents, including youth in a Racine community project.

Five years later, the garden is now 1 1/2 acres, producing tomatoes, leeks, onions, herbs, beets, carrots, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, watermelons, muskmelons, and raspberries. Part of the garden is devoted to raising flowers to give to shut-ins and for sale. In addition, Mark added a small orchard of apple, pear, peach, cherry, plum, and apricot trees. The garden is organic and receives much of its water from rain barrels.
About 2000 pounds of fresh vegetables are contributed to the North Side Food Pantry, sponsored in part by the church. Men from the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization and students from Horlick High School are hired to help with the weeding and mulching.
As the garden expanded in size and increased in output, the garden group decided to start a Farmers Market on the church parking lot, a part of town that has not had local produce for sale. After three years, there are about seven vendors who gather on Thursday afternoons during the summer months to sell produce and generate a sense of community. St. Andrews is a congregation with many seniors who can't participate in gardening but who bake for the Farmers Market and prepare vegetables to be used in soups sold at the market. Mark makes jams and jellies, pickles, pickled beets, apple sauce, soups and salsa (which is also given to new members). Last year St. Andrews made $10,000 from the Market and bought a new gas stove and freezer for the church, and contributed $1000 to the food pantry. 

There is also a Harvest Festival for the community each fall that raises more support for the local food drives.  “All these efforts,” says member Dave Rhoads, “serve our dual commitment to care for creation and relieve hunger in our community.”

The garden is always a work in progress. St. Andrew has also put in a rain garden to protect the local watershed and a small peace garden with trees and a bench for meditation. “Who knows, “Sandy says, “perhaps there is more to come.”

In addition to the garden projects, St. Andrew does much as a Lutherans Restoring Creation congregation: observes Earth-care worship, including the Season of Creation, a Blessing of the Animals, and earth Sunday; participates in the LRC sponsored Energy Stewards Initiative to reduce their carbon and water footprint; has a comprehensive reuse/ recycling program; uses green cleaning projects; avoids Styrofoam and paper products at food events; and offers members the option to make a Covenant with Creation to green their homes and work places.