Master Gardener Barb Harrison reflects on how the vegetable garden planted and maintained at her church, Skyland United Methodist in Asheville, impacts the community, the church, and her.
“This is my office,” Barb laughs as she unfolds a lawn chair beneath a sprawling maple tree overlooking the raised bed vegetable garden at the back of her church’s property. “I come here a couple times a week to monitor the garden, make notes about what’s happening, and plan next steps for my gardening team. With in-person church activities at a standstill, it’s very still and very quiet. I sit. I feel the sun and the breeze. I listen to the birds. This garden held me together during COVID. I look forward to just being here.”
Before the pandemic, Skyland United Methodist Church partnered with four other churches to offer a free breakfast on Saturday mornings. Diners often departed with bags of produce harvested from the church’s vegetable garden that Barb and her team of volunteers plant and maintain.
“Then COVID hit,” Barb continues. “We had to shut down serving breakfast at the Welcome Table. But what to do with all the veggies still coming out of our garden? We decided that the Welcome Table would become the Saturday morning Share Table. We are now going on three years of setting up tables under the driveway portico to display produce from our garden. Anyone can drive through, request whatever they need, and we package and load it into their car.
“Providing good, healthy food to those who need it is important enough. But we learned something else—something we hadn’t anticipated. The pandemic had isolated people and halted normal social interaction. Our Share Table—outdoors, in a wide-open, safely-distanced space—created community. People had contact with people. They brought their dogs and children. They took time to talk and share experiences. In the midst of so much unrest and illness, here was life and support and hope.
“This garden continues to inspire me,” Barb muses. “I see firsthand how it feeds and builds relationships within our community. I also see how it affects me personally. Time in the garden with others on my team are moments for sharing life stories…for getting to know each other better…for creating memories. I will forever see these people in my mind and remember how they planted their hearts here along with the veggies. That gives me peace. In the garden, I never feel alone.”
Article written by Beth Leonard, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.