By LANCE ARMSTRONG
A new community garden is in operation in Carmichael and thus far, it has experienced nothing but success.
Located at 4641 Marconi Ave., at Mission Avenue, the garden is located on previously undeveloped land of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, which held its first service on Jan. 25, 1953.
Kimberly Grimes, a member of the church since about 2001, said that the 100-foot by 120-foot piece of property had sat vacant since it was acquired by the church 60 years ago.
Ten years earlier, a 50th anniversary committee had discussed the possibility of establishing a garden on the property, which had been intended for a large expansion of the church building.
Although the church experienced one expansion of a new courtyard, classroom, nursery, offices and a community room in 1963, a large, potential community garden space remained available. However, the 2003 idea for a garden was eventually abandoned.
The garden idea was reintroduced by a church committee last January, and it was at that time that the committee voted on whether to consider placing a garden at the site. This year’s result was different, as work began on the site during the following month and the garden received its first plantings – the grape vines along Mission Avenue – in late April.
The garden has included tomatoes, corn, peppers, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, carrots, celery, radishes, beets, green onions, kiwis, sunflowers, basil, watermelons and pumpkins.
The pumpkins were grown in the plot of the Mission Oaks Preschool, which is located adjacent to the church.
As the summer and fall harvesting concludes, winter plantings will become the norm with such garden edibles as squash, cabbage, kale, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and onions.
Beginning this winter, surplus vegetables and other excess yield from the garden will be continuously donated to the food closet of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.
Grimes, who was a member of the 2013 committee, noted that she actually voted against the creation of the garden.
“The idea (for a community garden) came about again around January,” said Grimes, a Contra Costa native who resides in Rocklin. “To tell you the truth, I was completely against it. And I was against it in the 50th year (of the church), 10 years ago. I am a member of the church council and I am all about sustainability. I was like, ‘No, what is sustainable about a community garden. How is this going to help us financially?’ My first thought was there are these grants that we could do like the low income housing and we could earn some money from that. I’ve got all these kind of ideas. That’s what I do for a living (is run housing programs and community services for low income people for Yuba County), so that’s the way I’m thinking.”
But Grimes’ attitude has since drastically changed, as she has played a strong role in the establishment of the Lutheran church’s garden.
Her new outlook regarding community gardens began to form last January, following the latter aforementioned committee meeting.
Grimes said that her view of such a garden changed after she heard a story about a person who had wandered into the community garden of Carmichael’s Grace Family Church and discovered someone who was contemplating suicide.
“(That non-suicidal person) doesn’t do prayers, she doesn’t do ministry,” Grimes said. “But she just was drawn and she just ministered, said a prayer with the person and the person just really got healed. And then, of course, my whole perspective changed, because I never really looked at (a community) garden that way. I thought of it as just what you see out there – vegetables and fruit trees. I didn’t really look at it as outreach. I didn’t look at it as social ministry. And I’m a social service person, but I didn’t see a garden for that. She opened up my eyes to a whole new world and I totally changed my outlook of what this garden could be. Ever since then, it has just blossomed for me and my whole world has just opened up to what this garden means.”
Grimes added that every work day that has been held at the Lutheran church’s new garden has drawn locals who have been interested in learning about the garden and working in it.
The garden’s coordinator, Tahoe Park resident Lisa Mulz, also commented about the people who have been attracted to the garden.
“I’m very pleased with the number of people who have chosen to participate and accomplished so much (with the garden),” Mulz said. “I just think it’s really nice that it gives people a place to go, as well as interact with others and become part of a greater community. I was surprised actually by that. I did not expect it to impact as many people as it has. It is in a good location and it does catch people’s (attention). It’s right out there on the corner. I’m glad we’re doing it and I’m looking forward to a continued relationship with the community, and hopefully to grow a bit more.”
Mulz added that it is not necessary for one to be a member of the church to rent a garden plot in the church’s garden.
“I think there is a misperception for some of the people there that you have to be in the church (to rent a plot) or we’re doing it to have people join the church,” Mulz said. “The purpose of the garden is not to attract new members to the church, but to do outreach to people in the neighborhood and just give people a place to be. And gardening is such a great way for people to reconnect with life-giving opportunities to grow stuff and just get their hands dirty, and also to be in communication with others.”
Thus far, all but one of the garden plots are rented by people who are not members of the church, and the lone church member rented plot was donated for low income people.
Statistics alone show the need for a community garden, as 24.7 percent of those residing in the targeted community of zip code 95821 live below poverty level and 56 percent of those residing in the same area rent their living spaces. And many of those people have no place to plant a garden.
Furthermore, the church is located a few blocks from a U.S. Department of Agriculture food desert – an area with little or no access to healthy, fresh food.
About two-thirds of the garden’s plots have been built and the church is awaiting financial assistance and materials to have the other plots constructed and additional features added to the site.
These additions can be completed through labor and redwood lumber, picnic benches for a sitting area, a decomposed granite walkway for seniors and disabled persons, an archway entrance, a bench at the entryway and additional fruit trees.
The church is also seeking a staff person to manage the social needs of gardeners and visitors.
The church received grants for the garden project from the Lutheran Development Society of Sacramento, Lutheran Thrivent Care Abounds and Wheatridge Ministries.
The Sacramento Tree Foundation supplied fruit trees.
Other donors include Hunter Industries, Gardener’s Supply Co., Amazing Digital Magic, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and various Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer congregation members.
Among the previously unnamed people who have donated their time to the success of the garden are Paul Weller, architect designer; Ann Carlson, volunteer coordinator; Bill Maynard, community garden program coordinator for the city of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation; and Pastor Daniel Kim, senior pastor of Carmichael’s Ark Mission Church, which mainly consists of Korean-American members.
Plots, when available, are rented for $25 per year and volunteers are always welcome.
A special public event that was mainly arranged to celebrate the garden’s establishment and to introduce more people in the community to the garden will be held on Sunday, Oct. 13.
In speaking about this event, the Rev. Jason Bense, the church’s pastor, said, “We’re going to have a (10 a.m.) service of the blessing of the animals, so people are invited to bring their pets. We’ll have an outdoor worship service to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, who preached to all of creation. It’s a celebration of creation Sunday, with a barbecue following, so we invite people for that.”
And as for the garden, Bense added, “It has given enthusiasm and excitement for us as a (church) community and also it has given enthusiasm and excitement for the neighborhood and the larger community. Plus, it’s a gift of beautification beyond the joy that’s there and it’s a great joy to come on in and see green and the sunflowers out there. It’s a sign of the care of our own health and the health of the community beyond the environment, but our physical bodies of having locally-grown, freshly-produced food.”
The garden is officially open to the public on the third Saturday of every month and by appointment.
For additional information about the garden and the Oct. 13 event, visit the Web site www.lcorsac.org or call (916) 483-5691.