Debbie Abernathy, a member of Chestnut Ridge Christian Church, had a vision of involving the church and community in an ongoing, outreach project. She identified the focus; feeding those in need. She pulled together a steering committee that envisioned a “Feed the Hungry” Garden and the eventuality of adding additional beds for individuals from the community, who would be asked to contribute 10% of their produce for food donations.
In the Spring of 2009, the steering committee, members of Chestnut Ridge Christian Church decided to set aside a fifth of an acre on an unused portion of the church’s property for a “Square-Foot Garden” to grow fresh, organic vegetables for local food pantries (Center for Family Resources, Marietta First Christian Church Food Pantry, Extension for Women, Transfiguration Church, and MUST Ministries). The goal was to provide fresh produce to assist those who were going through the challenges of a weak economy. The vision also included partnering with others such as The Master Gardeners, Cobb County, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Cooperative Extension in the hope of expanding interest in gardening and spreading the value of eating healthy, locally grown produce.
Some of our members are new to gardening, but we do have a number of individuals who have been growing vegetables and flowers for years. Our gardeners are from both the community and Chestnut Ridge Christian Church. We are very fortunate to have eight Master Gardeners. Anyone in need of a gardening space is invited to join us as plots become available.
The “Feed the Hungry” garden was started with only 3 plots. Our garden now has 63 leased plots, plus 12 designated specifically for feeding the hungry. So far this year we have donated 686 pounds of fresh produce to feed those in need. In addition we have 3 common beds, 2 asparagus beds, a berry patch, a grape trellis, 2 composting areas, 2 flower beds, and a memorial garden. We’ve also added a children’s garden under the supervision of Julie Franklin.
Currently we have 54 families gardening with us under the leadership of Cobb Master Gardener and church member Marilyn Richter and Cobb Master Gardeners Eileen Silva and Steven Gray. It is our earnest hope that as we help provide food for those in need as well as gardening space for those who wish to garden, we provide the opportunity for building a sense of community among those who participate.