By MADOLINE MARKHAM
The community garden at Mountain Brook Presbyterian Garden isn’t just a church project. It’s feeding the Birmingham community.
“We’re sending good vegetables to people who might not otherwise get fresh vegetables” church member Danny Evans said. “It’s easier when you think someone is going to get to eat today because of this.”
They harvested more than 5,000 pounds of vegetables last year for the hungry in Birmingham and anticipate even more this year. Evans and his wife, Alexandria Parrish, were instrumental in starting the garden three years ago.
Volunteers at the garden will be harvesting tomatoes, beans and other produce most of July. Laura Dooley, the new master gardener, is on-site four days a week, and is available to help those who don’t have much experience.
“Picking is fairly easy for everyone,” Dooley said. “Children can help if a parent will do it with them, and we’ll show you what to pick and how. It’s educational for young people to learn where their food comes from.”
“Come one time and give it a try,” Dooley said, “You might get bit by the gardening bug and find you love it.”
The garden grows mostly vegetables like sweet potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, squash that most people know how to cook.
One day three years ago Evans and Pastor Cary Speaker were standing in the church’s Fellowship Hall looking out the back window on the church’s 10-acre campus on Brookwood Road.
“We ought to do something with all that land,” Speaker said.
“We should start a garden,” Evans said.
And that’s just what they did.
“Danny is a ‘let’s do it now’ kind of guy,” Speaker said. He used his a tractor to plow the land and ended up finding good soil ripe for planting. All it needed was for someone to just put seeds in the ground.
Edwin Marty, Director of Jones Valley Urban Farms, and Paulette Van Matra, director of Magic City Harvest, helped them get started gardening. Van Matra now picks up their produce two to three times a week. Her organization redistributes food from grocery stores, conventions and wedding receptions that would otherwise be wasted to 20 shelters a day.
“It is a great opportunity to team up with Magic City Harvest to feed hungry people,” Speaker said.
The church got behind the area and helped plot off a fenced-in area. People, many who had never gardened, started coming out to plant and harvest.
“Those weeds don’t get pulled by themselves,” Speaker said.
“You get dirty and sweaty, but it’s rewarding,” Evans said. “You can plant beans on Saturday, and by Tuesday they are coming out of the ground.”
“I had never taken the time to do it until we did it at the church,” Speaker said. “The experience of planting, watching something grow and harvesting has been on the parallel and seeing the things I’ve read in the Bible my whole life.”
They traditionally plant the first seeds on Good Friday and harvest until first frost in the fall.
Concern for the hungry has become integral to the church’s mission. They brought in speakers from hunger-related organizations at a recent church picnic and showed a movie on dumpster diving called Dive to raise awareness.
Evans and Speaker both encourage anyone in the community—regardless of their faith affiliation or gardening experience—to come out to help garden. They are always looking for more manpower to plant and harvest.
“It’s hard to mess up,” Evans said. “You should give it a try even if you don’t think you have a green thumb.”
For questions about gardening, call Dooley at 563-6145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is at the garden Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 8:30-11:30 a.m. Dooley has gardening tools and sunscreen for volunteers and recommends they wear comfortable closed-toe shoes, hats and, if you like, gardening gloves. Larger groups interested in helping can contact Danny Evans at 382-0094.
If Dooley isn’t there, you can bring your own tools and work any time. Look for the task sheet on the bulletin board at any time and write down name and what you complete.
For more information on the garden, visit http://www.mbpcusa.org/garden.html or the Moutnain Brook Presbyterian Community Garden Facebook page.