Grace and Peace,
It may be difficult to consider, but there have been blessings that are a result of our current pandemic. One such blessing that has been mentioned to me several times is that during the Zoom coffee hours folks feel that they are getting to know each other better than has occurred in the past. It would be wrong to credit Zoom, which is much like a double edge sword, both blessing and curse, with these connections, and it is more likely that we are so enjoying the focused, undisturbed, discussions that we are now having.
One such discussion that I remember was Gail and Les Rucker talking about a class that they took during their Master Gardener program. They explained that the presenter asked the group “what is the most expensive plant in your garden?”
After much discussion, and perhaps some bragging about rare species, it was revealed that your lawn is the most expensive plant. When considering the fertilizer, water needs, mowing, maintenance, etc. a lawn is more costly than any other plant in your garden. While a green lawn may be a friend to your local HOA, and actually a requirement, it is not a friend to the environment or your wallet.
The best investment for your garden is actually edible. This is not necessarily a traditional vegetable garden bed, but a permaculture garden with a variety and assortment of compatible edible options. A group of berry bushes, edible flowers, herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables can produce a surprising harvest, even on the tiniest of plots. What might be most surprising about this is that studies have shown that an acre of suburban garden can be three times more productive than an acre of farmland.
To demonstrate this Amy Stross has written a book, The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People, that highlights her 1/10 acre micro-farm. Her tiny plot of land supplies fruits and vegetables for 50% of her family meals. The book is written about the real world of small spaces, or no space, sloping land, poor soil, shade, limited time (even 15 minutes a day), and neighbors who expect you to have a green lawn. In short, it is written about the world in which most of us live.
This, however, is not a book review, rather it is a call to ministry. Food insecurity is a real issue in Montgomery County and Olney. Locally, 16.3% of children in this county are food insecure, more than any other county in Maryland, and more than the 8.3% of the adult population. Cashell Elementary, an affluent community school, has 19 families that identify as food insecure (with more in the shadows). Suburban micro-farms, like the Victory Gardens of WWII, can be a part of the solution. St. John’s can be a part of the solution.
Recently, St. John’s received the gift of seed money to begin developing a ministry that provides resources and education so that we can teach and facilitate this sort of micro-farming in a way that will address some of the food insecurity in our community. Each family that we help is one less family that is going hungry. But this not just about food insecurity, it is also about good stewardship of our land resources and our environment, and it is about healthy eating for all of us.
It is one thing to give someone a fish for a meal, and it is entirely different to teach them how to fish; or in this case, teach them how to farm, even if that farm is just a small raised bed, or pots on an apartment balcony. A tenth of an acre, or ten square feet, each can provide food for the table. We do not want to duplicate the efforts offered by other groups, but instead focus resources on this permaculture micro-farming as a way to address healthy eating, food insecurity, and land resources. This is a ministry we can do now; training over Zoom, or working outside in a garden are all in accordance with best practices for safe contact.
Will this new ministry become one of the blessings of the pandemic? Do you feel called to be a part of this ministry? Do you feel called to help someone leave behind the bonds of food insecurity? Do you feel called to usher in a new era of good land stewardship? Do you simply want to eat healthy fruits and veg? Please let me know how you might like to help.
God be with you until we meet again.