In early 2013, a member of Fairfield Mennonite Church brought up the idea of a starting a community garden. The idea took hold and in late spring 2013, the congregation banded together and built four or five raised beds in which to grow vegetables. Menno Gardens was born!
Our experimental plan was 1) to grow our produce to share with the congregation and 2) any produce that was harvested during the week of our monthly Fairfield Community Food Pantry would be donated to the Food Pantry. Our little garden experiment was such a success in 2013, the church decided to expand and continue the gardens into the foreseeable future.
Like all things in life, insight into better gardening comes with experience and even failure. Raised boxes are different from planting directly in the ground. In addition to the raised boxes, we tried growing in small individual pots or containers. Some things just don’t do well in smaller pots, so we are only going to use the larger raised beds. We also tried doing without fertilizer but that limited crop yield. This year we’ll feed the soil as well as eliminate all the individual pots. Another challenge will be better composting.
In 2014 we experimented with lettuce, onions, beets, chard, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, bush and pole beans, and Brussel sprouts. Tomatoes in individual containers did not work! In 2015, our intention is to plant lettuce, onions, greens, peas, beets, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and a few herbs like basil and parsley. If we have space we will try Brussel sprouts again.
Our seed and plant man, Darv Gebhart, brought us several flats of gorgeous continual cutting lettuce. All those plants were planted and are growing. Our April food pantry volunteers got to enjoy our first cutting of freshly harvested garden lettuce. Bit by bit our garden is getting there. Our first attempts at going green (using recycled containers to plant in) were adequate, but messy looking. After 2 years of experimenting, we have a better idea of what we want in our raised beds. Things are starting to look a bit better. We redid some of the beds, making things look a bit more finished and “professional.” Gwen and Steve Hendrickson have been great additions to our gardening team. Peyton Murray is our compost man. Thank goodness for what he’s done so far because having compost to add to the soil has been great.
Currently, we have lettuce, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, beets and chard planted. Now we need rain! It is gratifying to know that in this small way we are God’s hands and feet and that some of our veggies will bring some tasty meals to many tables. God has given us everything we need for life and that includes good and healthy foods. We are excited and happy to grow our produce here at Fairfield Mennonite Church and help to bring healthy, natural foods to those who need it.
by Lorraine Rauch, President of the Congregation