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2003 at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic CommunityGarden

  • Subject: [cg] 2003 at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic CommunityGarden
  • From: Alliums garlicgrower@earthlink.net
  • Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 19:53:07 -0500

Hi, Folks!

I have to do a report for the church about what happened at the community garden this year, so I figured I'd share it with all of you.


Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden

A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA  19460

The 2003 Season at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden

The 2003 growing season was eventful!  Here's what happened:


This year, we had more work days and volunteers helping out at the community garden than we've ever had before -- and the garden has looked fantastic in spite of the incredible weed growth due to non-stop spring/summer rains.

The Perennial Area Volunteers began the growing season in March.  Over the season, we had 6 adult volunteers who came out every Tuesday night through October to tend the herb/fruit tree/perennial areas. As part of Phoenixville High School's Community Service program, Mike Nero received school credit for helping out where needed throughout the growing season.

Valley Forge Christian College kicked off their first-ever Phoenixville Work Day on April 16th and sent several teams to clear out the winter weeds so that the garden glowed for Easter Egg Hunt sponsored by St. John's United Church of Christ  Christian Education Committee on April 19. Over seventy people attended while children scrambled through the garden (and the wood chip pile!)to find hidden eggs and candy. Spring rains dampened the Spring Work Day on April 25, but the gardeners and volunteers that attended laid out the paths between the garden plots.  Since the rains kept Chester County Juvenile Probation from attending in April, they came instead on May 31st and cleared out the weeds the April and May rains had sprouted.

The Mitchell Program of St. Gabriel's Hall was also rained out on the Spring Work Day, but decided instead to supplement the boys' understanding of agriculture by bringing a group to the garden every Wednesday and Friday from April until the ground freezes solid (in December?).  At the Mitchell Program, the boys take care of a market garden and farm animals.  At St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden, they learn the stories behind heirloom vegetables, the principles of organic/sustainable agriculture related to where they are in the growing season and do hands-on tasks both to care for the different plants at the garden and to care for the soil so that it will continue to produce. Many of the boys are from inner-city Philadelphia and believe that agriculture is something the Christian Brothers dreamed up from 100 years ago to keep them busy -- when they come to the community garden, they meet other people whose primary food sources come from what they grow, rather than what they buy and learn that they, too, can grow food for themselves and their families at any time in their lives when they choose to do so.

In October, we had another flurry of work days when we participated in all three of the Chester County United Way "Days of Caring/Make A Difference Day" on October 16, 21 and 25.  Our 68 volunteers (including folks from Siemens Medical Solution and our youth volunteers) pulled out the last of the summer weeds and readied the garden for a winter that hopefully will not be as wet as the seasons that preceded it!


Our primary focus remains providing free garden space to anyone in the Phoenixville area who wishes to garden organically and agrees to donate at least 10% (the Biblical tithe) of their harvest either directly to someone in need or to the food bank operated by Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS).  While the plowing was delayed until late April due to the spring rains, in 2003, our 34 gardeners on 15 plots remained the primary source of in-season fresh produce for the PACS food bank. Our oldest gardeners is 74 years old and has been with the garden since it began in 1991 -- in spite of arthritis, he manages the largest plot in the garden and keeps the open areas mowed every two weeks, weather permitting. However, with 13 children under the age of 12 whose families have plots and the groups of very young children (under 8 years old) from Fairview who play in the garden and look for worms and insects under the log borders, the next generation of gardeners is very much with us!


Harold Snyder built another two bat boxes which the Chester County Housing Authority evenly spaced across the front of the garden. For his Life Scout Badge project, Chris Yocum constructed and installed two bat houses along the west side of the garden. Each plot at the community garden now has its own composter to recycle organic matter back into the soil. Because we have so many (young, hungry, teenage!) volunteers, the Chester County Cares Gleaning Program now provides a weekly baked goods delivery for on-the-spot "thank yous" that are appreciated as much by the adults as the teenagers who inspired them!

Coordinator's Activities

I was the guest speaker at the Phoenixville-West Mom's Club meeting in February, attended the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Chester County Marketing potluck in March and set up a booth explaining the community garden in Reeves Park for the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation 5th Anniversary Party in September. Throughout the year, I wrote articles and did book reviews related to sustainable agriculture.

The 2004 Season

While the garden is currently taking a much-needed break for winter, we'll open in March for volunteering in the perennial area and open for plot gardening on April 3, 2004. Our Spring Work Day, open to gardeners and community volunteers alike, will be April 24, 2004 from 10 am to 2 pm.  "Make A Difference Day," when we hold our Fall Work Day will be on October 30, 2004. If you or anyone you know would like to donate time or garden on a plot in 2004, just call the church at 610-933-5311 or drop me an e-mail at <alliums@yahoo.com>.  Agriculture is an infinitely expandable activity, so there's always something to do for everyone!

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