Carrollton churches donate community garden produce to food programs – Dallas Morning News

North Carrollton churches have found a way to serve the community a little closer to home — right outside their front doors.

Congregations including Aldersgate United Methodist Church and Redeemer Covenant Church have formed community gardens on their properties with the help of Keep Carrollton Beautiful Board of Directors and Community Garden Liaison Cindy Baxley.

The Giving Garden at Aldersgate UMC and Harvest Community Garden at Redeemer Covenant operate as nonprofits under Keep Carrollton Beautiful’s 501(c)(3) status. And now the city will welcome its third community garden at Nor’Kirk Presbyterian Church.

Baxley, who has worked with all three of the church’s community green spaces, serves on the board of directors for The Giving Garden and Harvest Community Garden. Dr. Dave McKenas, an elder for missions at Nor’Kirk, said the church is considering connecting to the Carrollton nonprofit, but at the moment it is “not seeing a need to fomally link to Keep Carrollton Beautiful.”

“They may just do theirs [garden] independently, but we will support them and do whatever we can,” Baxley said. “I just helped give them some ideas and answer questions and so forth, but they’re not to that state yet of how it’s going to be organized. But we’re so excited to have a third community garden in Carrollton coming along.”

Planting a vision

Terri Barrett, director of missions for Aldersgate UMC and a member of the board of directors for The Giving Garden, said the idea for the green space stemmed from the Rev. Woody Weilage, a former pastor who communicated his vision for a garden in September 2009.

“He said that we had underutilized property in the back of the church,” Barrett said. “And he dreamt that perhaps one day we might be able to make it into a community garden to help serve those in our community and those who didn’t have enough food to eat.”

The idea, she said, took hold with several congregation members who formed a seed committee.

“From there we [began] our planning, and we saw it was such a huge task and it required quite a bit of resource in terms of money and man hours,” she said.

That’s when Baxley, who had hoped for a community garden near her neighborhood in previous years, joined in the community garden effort.

“When they approached us, since this was kind of something I had been talking about with our board. They were like, ‘Well, you want to take this project on,’” Baxley said. “So I did.”

The forming garden teamed up with KCB in October 2009 and broke ground in February 2010.

The garden volunteers were mentored by organizers from other community gardens in the area, including Coppell Community Garden. In 2010 The Giving Garden offered its own mentoring advice to nearby Redeemer Covenant Church.

“The church has more property than it can use and we wanted a little more community engagement,” said Stan Basnett, chairman of the Harvest Community Garden board. “So we basically followed the pattern of The Giving Garden.”

The Giving Garden had about four or five meetings with the establishing group on issues from water usage to a business plan to organizational set up, Basnett said.

Harvest Community Garden currently has 14 gardeners. Basnett said the nonprofit tries to keep the church membership in the garden to 25 percent or less, while the remaining members are “at large or in the community.”

“It wouldn’t be a community garden if we just allowed only church members,” he said.

Harvest operates 12 full, 4-foot-by-20-foot plots that members can rent per year for $40 or $20 for half-plots. While water is free, members do have to supply their own organic fertilizers and soil amendments. But the garden does receive occasional donations from the community such as seeds from Rosemeade Market and Greenhouse.

The Giving Garden and Harvest Community Garden tout organic gardening methods and donate half of their produce to area food programs.

In 2012 Harvest donated 476 pounds of produce, and in 2013 it donated 726 pounds, Basnett said in an email.

Since its inception, The Giving Garden has donated 4,446 pounds of produce.

Barrett said she initially contacted Metrocrest Services for the garden’s donation site but realized it was already supported by the Coppell Community Garden.

“When I talked with them [CCA] there, they said, you know, ‘Terri, we’re feeding hundreds of families every week and we can make good use of anything you can give us and more,’” Barrett said.

The Giving Garden supplies donations to Christian Community Action in Lewisville three Saturdays of the month. On the fourth Saturday, Barett said the garden donates directly to Aldersgate UMC Food Share, which provides food and groceries monthly to senior citizens in the community.

Communal roots

Since 2010 Carrollton has seen community gardens spring to life and in May the city will see another at Nor’Kirk Presbyterian.

The community garden blossomed out of the Nor’Kirk Sack Summer Hunger, a program in which the church partners with Metrocrest Services, said Carrollton residentDr. Dave McKenas.

“We were trying to figure out ways that we could just help local folks in need a little bit better,” McKenas said.

The church approached Prebyterian Church (U. S.A.) regional governing organization Grace Presbytery to help fund the garden. On March 1, Grace Presbytery awarded the church a $3,000 grant to help fund the overall $8,000 garden.

After driving by Aldersgate UMC, where the The Giving Garden sits behind the church, McKenas said he reached out to The Giving Garden, where he met Baxley.

“She was very gracious and came over and talked with our committee, and we just pummeled her with questions in regards to permits and how did they pull it off — their funding — and things along those lines,” McKenas said.

The project has garnered interest from St. Andrew’s Christian Church, as well as the Homestead Homeowners Association, a neighborhood behind the church. The Nor’Kirk preschool plans to use a plot for education purposes, McKenas said.

Nor’Kirk, which will reveal its garden’s name on April 20, also has plans for the first phase of the project. The initial phase includes 10 plots, and a portion of its produce will be distributed to Metrocrest Services and Austin Street Center in Dallas and Nor’Kirk’s Sack Summer Hunger program.

Working alongside the community gardens has been a “very fulfilling and rewarding” experience, Baxley said.

“I love seeing the application of so many people coming together for the same cause,” she said.

Elizabeth Knighten is the Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Addison neighborsgo editor and can be reached at 214-977-2264.


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