A Mission to Feed OthersJul 01, 2020 12:19PM ● By Grace Allen
A little plot of land behind the Federated Church of Norfolk has been quietly fighting hunger for almost a decade.
The “mission garden,” part of the church’s Love Your Neighbor initiative, is a way to feed bodies as well as souls, says Emily Woodward, the garden manager for the 2020 season.
“If you combine gardening with the knowledge that you are helping your neighbor, that is the spirit of community,” she said. “And being outside, regardless of the weather, provides a sense of well-being, especially in the upside-down world we find ourselves in right now.”
Volunteers prepare the land, plant the crops, harvest the vegetables, and distribute the garden’s bounty each summer. Vegetables include cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, squashes, and Brussels sprouts. And for beauty, lots of flowers.
The mission garden is a community-wide effort, explained Woodward. Each spring and fall, Zach Ziegler of Ziegler’s Market Garden, a vegetable farm in town, rototills the garden. Boy Scout Troop 80 opens and beds down the garden, as well as maintains the fencing. Girl Scout Troop 62246 has donated seeds and starter squash plants. St. Jude Church has provided a generous financial donation to support the garden for four years. And Federated Church members of all ages help to plant, weed, and harvest the vegetables. Garden Club of Norfolk member Liz Davey is the Master Gardner.
Woodward said the produce is donated to local individuals and families in need, to meals at the Attleboro Soup Kitchen and Haven of Grace Ministries in Woonsocket, R.I., and to the Norfolk Food Pantry, run by the Emmanuel Baptist Church.
“Their effort to reduce food insecurity really knocks it out of the park,” said Woodward of the food pantry. “Reliability is their hallmark. They are there every Saturday of the year for anyone in Norfolk.”
The mission garden was started as an Eagle Scout project ten years ago. The church is always looking for volunteers to help with the garden. Woodward emphasizes no green thumb is necessary, just a desire to feed hungry people with fresh produce.
“I feel very strongly about our garden,” said Woodward. “You’re never going to know who is in need because they are not going to declare themselves. So you just provide and know you are doing a good thing.”
Contact Woodward via email at [email protected] or call the church’s Love Your Neighbor contact number: 508-298-7937. Teens looking for service hours are encouraged to participate.