“Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make my Garden grow.” – John Denver

barryWith the arrival of sunshine and warmth the yearly trip to renew our “crop share” purchase took place.

Like many other people Susan and I renewed buying a small share in the crops grown at a community organic farm which represents a popular recent trend to eating healthier and buying locally. A trip to your local food market will illustrate the marked increase in items labeled “Organic” or “Grown without the aid of commercial fertilizers.” Recent statistics in North America show that organic food sales have grown by nearly 40% in the past three years.

It’s an interesting shift which will benefit the earth and our general health. With that thought in mind I was dividing the herbs in my garden. The Sage , Oregano and Rosemary have done particularly well and I was dividing up the plants and re potting them to share.  The new focus upon small home gardens and urban gardening is positive. I recall one victory garden last fall, tended by a community church which donated 60,000 pounds of fresh produce to an inner city urban ministry helping to feed 17 thousand food bank users!  Although the majority of us do not have the capability to grow that volume of crops we can all make a positive difference to our families and the community by becoming involved with urban gardens and growing local produce.

The past month I have been working with urban ministries and reviewing the most effective programs to assist marginalized people. The greatest obstacle for families living in poverty is isolation and exclusion a result of minimal finances. How can you build community and get people to interact and engage?

We are all familiar with the increased costs of food, particularly healthier items. Think of the benefits of growing and sharing your harvested crops with your neighbourhood Food Bank or Nutrition Center as some are called. The fresh produce provides an educational opportunity for many urban ministries as they engage with people educating them how to prepare and cook healthy produce, perhaps through a community kitchens. It allows people to talk and share with each other their daily joys and challenges.

The small neighbourhood community garden also brings people from different social economic environments together.

Planting and working collectively is another educational opportunity as well as the more experienced gardeners can share personal experiences with the novice gardener.

Just think of the benefits of dividing your plants, bringing them to the city and planting them in a community garden with someone you just met. The physical, mental and spiritual benefits are for everyone. Personally I always feel closer to God in the garden where I can touch and see the results of his intervention. Watching the arrival of new plants always brings me renewed Hope. Not a bad thing in the hectic world we live in.

Check with your local community services department to learn how your green thumb can help transform lives and build community.

Barry Coe

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