Merced County is in the center of one of the most productive agricultural areas of the world and yet hundreds of families go without fresh fruits and vegetables.
LifeLine CDC has given out emergency foods for the past 3 years to people in crisis, and connects them to neighbors and resources in the community. As fruits and vegetables are getting more expensive, several families talked about starting a community garden. But how do we learn to farm? Where do we find the land? How about water and tools?
At the same time a class at Gateway Community Church challenged Christ-followers to use their gifts, experiences and time for God’s Kingdom. Loren and Barbara Arnold took on the challenge! Soon to retire and with a history of organic farming for local farmers markets, they opened up a section of their farmland and their hearts to us. And so a community garden is born.
Several families and a recovery home signed up to be part of this garden as the Arnolds taught us how to prepare the land, place the seeds, distinguish what weeds to pull and how to harvest! What a pleasure to see the smiles on the faces of young and old who received the fruit of their labor! Together we learned how to prepare the produce and how to share them with others in the community. We often heard, “we can do this in our own community, our own backyard!”
A single mom with 2 pre-teen boys shared her story last week: In need of new work pants, she went to the thrift store, and bartered with the staff. She gave them some of the veggies she had just harvested and in exchange received new pants. What a joy to see this happening!
Last week we harvested so many vegetables that we were able to share them with a low-income apartment building that we have been having contact with.
Next step? We will help the people transition their new learned skills to use in their backyards and their own neighborhoods. Already some of them are taking charge of planning for the next year.