One of the unexpected side effects of the pandemic era in the United States was that an explosion of gardening occurred as house-bound people tried to turn their backyards into oases of productivity. Of course, not all who tried succeeded, and some didn’t try because they lacked a backyard. One result, in practical terms, was a larger-than-usual population of frustrated would-be gardeners who wished they had more knowledge or more space, or perhaps both. Into this environment stepped the Adventist church in Williston, Vermont, with a potentially powerful community outreach program called the “Sow and Share Community Garden.”
The garden is located on the church grounds, and church members put considerable effort into it by creating seed-ready open beds and raised beds and erecting a greenhouse. One goal of the outreach is to help people have more healthy, fresh vegetables for their households. The project’s other goal is to form relationships between church members and community members throughout the gardening season.
“The church is blessed with a large lot [and] is blessed with members who are skilled at gardening and want to reach out to their community, so this project just seemed to make sense,” said Frentzen Pakpahan, church pastor. In early May, the church organized a work bee to establish the gardening area and several church members came out to assist. “Since then, we’ve had a number of community members sign up to have garden plots at our church,” Pakpahan added. “One thing I really like about the project is that our members will be mentoring those gardeners who want help, so they’ll form relationships.” Pakpahan points out that the relationships formed during the growing season do not need to end at harvest time. “Our members can also show gardeners how to preserve their vegetables and, of course, our fellowship hall has a great kitchen for helping with that.” The church could also provide classes instructing people how to eat healthier and utilize the produce they grew. “This is a project that is based on a garden, but that keeps on going well after the gardening season has ended,” says Pakpahan. “The relationships it builds create an opportunity to sow the gospel while our community is sowing seeds.”
The Williston church is located just outside Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, in the northwest corner of the state, and seeks to “sow” the message of salvation through Christ to the vibrant population of the area.