July 6, 2016
SCARBOROUGH---“I just think this is neat because it’s going to bring parishioners together, to work together, but also the fact that it is supporting the food cupboard, which I think is wonderful,” said Monsignor Michael Henchal, pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough, St. Bartholomew Parish in Cape Elizabeth, and St. John and Holy Cross Parish in South Portland.
On any given day, parishioners, young and old, can be found diligently tending to a new community garden, affectionately named the “Garden of Eaten,” located outside the rectory of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough, Green beans, carrots, onions, and other produce fill eight, 10’ x 12’ raised beds, and 50 2’ x 4’ kiddie plots.
“It’s more fun than anything, and we’ve met some really, really nice people,” said Fran Audet, one of the gardeners.
The “Garden of Eaten” is a social justice initiative of the three parishes which got off the ground with the help of a $4,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. On a first come, first served basis, and for a minimal fee, parishioners signed up for beds with the intention of gardening for themselves and also giving a portion to help families served by the South Portland Food Cupboard, which assists an average of 75 families a week. In addition, parishioners work together to tend to one large bed, set aside to benefit those in need at the cupboard.
“There are so many food insecure families in the Portland area, and fresh produce is sometimes difficult for food cupboards and food pantries to stock because of the fact that it is perishable, so we wanted to be able to provide a way for them to have some sort of source of fresh produce for families,” said gardener Kathy Jones, who is sometimes helped by her six-year-old grandson Jacob.
“Fresh produce is an important part of the food cupboard,” said Jim Welch, a parishioner who works at the cupboard. “Getting fresh vegetables into the hands of these people can only make them feel better. And it makes us feel better when we know it’s getting out there.”
Much of the initial “seed” money went towards putting in water spigots that are connected to the rectory through underground pipes, but as the initiative began to grow, so did the generosity. Members of the Knights of Columbus Calvary Council 8144 laid out the perimeter and built the individual raised beds. Phil Roberts of Broadway Gardens had 25 yards of garden soil dropped off in the parking lot by an 18-wheeler. T.W. Enterprises, Inc. in Westbrook donated wood chips; Garbage to Garden in Portland offered a discount on compost; and Hammond Lumber provided a discount on lumber. In addition, carpenter John McDonough donated his time to build a shed, and Joe Capobianco, a master gardener, leant his expertise.
“It’s a real community event,” said Paul Chamberlain, the chair of the garden committee. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Even Monsignor Henchal has offered his green thumb, developed as a child in his family’s big garden, to grow broccoli and cauliflower.
“When you’re in a big cluster (three parishes) like this, you do a lot of administration, so you don’t do a lot of hands on stuff, and this is really hands on. And during the summer, it’s easier to do it. There aren’t as many things going on,” said the monsignor.
The participants, with varying levels of acumen in the garden, share tips, stories, and laughs as they nurture their produce and relationships with each other, all while sharing God’s mercy with the hungry.
“Look at how big this area is. We can keep extending it,” said Audet. “More people will want to do it, and we’ll give more to the food cupboard.”
“Hopefully, at some point, we’ll even have some of the families who are being served with these come in and be owners,” said Jones.
“I’m really proud of this,” said Monsignor Henchal.
The "Garden of Eaten" community garden at St. Maximilian Kolbe church is being created through a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to help provide food insecure households in Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, and Scarborough with fresh produce. Part of our mission as an extension of the Social Justice and Catholic Service committee for our parish cluster is to also educate others on how to grow fresh produce and prepare it for meals. In order to fulfill Christ's command to "love one another" and to act on the Corporal Work of Mercy to "Feed the Hungry," some of our produce will be going to the South Portland Food Cupboard and/or the Scarborough Food Pantry.
How It Works:
There are 8 large raised beds (10' X 12') and 50 kiddie plots (2' X 4') available for growing produce. One of the large beds will be set aside for donating to the local food pantries. Parishioners at St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John & Holy Cross, and St. Bartholomew parishes will be given the opportunity to apply for one of the other seven large plots and all of the kiddie plots. Assignment of the plots are done on a "first come, first serve" basis. Please see the application and the guidelines below. Please get your application in to Nancy Chamberlain as soon as possible. Once the plots are assigned, we hope to have an organizational meeting of all our gardeners to set out the guidelines and have a workday. Working on the community plot will be the responsibility of all our gardeners who will be scheduled on a week by week basis. Large plot gardeners will be expected to donate a portion of their produce to the local food pantry. Please join this exciting ministry in our parishes!
How You Can Help:
There are many ways in which you can help with this project: