Good Things Grow in Spokane Area Church Community Gardens
Three church-sponsored community gardens invite others to tend soil — “literally, figuratively and spiritually.”
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Churches can be places to find community and connection, but those bonds aren’t always formed within the walls of a building.
Several Spokane-area congregations sponsor community gardens — places where members and non-members alike can find a connection to each other and the earth.
St. John’s Community Garden
Located on a slope just east of St. John’s Cathedral, this garden is home to 34 raised beds that are available to rent for $20 per season. Residents of the nearby senior-living Canterbury Court Apartments receive a discounted rate.
“A lot of our gardeners live there,” said garden manager Kristi Philip.
Creating the growing space along an alley and on a hillside proved challenging.
“Try putting a fence on basalt!” Philip said.
But the efforts are appreciated by both church members and neighbors.
“We’ve got almost a full house this year, and a group of gardeners planted donated seeds in the unclaimed beds,” she said. “Some of the beds are two-feet high, and some are waist high.”
The Cathedral provides topsoil, water and wheelbarrows as well as other tools.
Several Eagle Scout candidates have made improvements to the area.
“Boy Scouts have played important roles through Eagle Scout projects,” said Philip.
Scouting projects included the construction of taller beds in the lower section and the construction of about a dozen beds in the upper section. Recently, an Eagle Scout candidate oversaw the installation of a prefab shed and a porch area, utilizing materials available at the site, plus concrete.
“We’ve been immensely grateful for the help these boys and their parents have provided,” she said.
In addition to supplementing their tables, many St. John’s gardeners donate produce to Our Place and area food banks.
As the garden manager, Philip has watched the overlap of those tending their plants — some come early in the morning, others in the early evening.
The commonality is clear to her.
“A lot of good things happen in the garden,” she said. “We are trying to honor what grows, and how it grows while giving thanks for it.”
Episcopal Church of the Resurrection Community Garden and Orchard
The Community Orchard partners with the Spokane Edible Tree Project, area educational institutions and food banks. Approximately 20,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables have been donated since 2013.
“We charge $35 per season and still have three raised beds available,” said garden supervisor Tim Lape. “We provide water and compost and are always looking for anyone in the community who is interested in growing veggies.”
In addition to raised beds, this garden offers 18 flat-ground plots at $15 per season, three of which are currently available.
“These are for growing zucchini, squash, pumpkins — whatever takes more space than raised beds provide,” Lape said. “The garden is completely self-sufficient and takes no money from the church.”
While the garden spots are open to anyone interested, church members care for the eight-tree orchard, which includes six apple and two pear trees.
The trees had been neglected for years until Lape applied for a grant to provide water for them. Now, the apple trees provide enough fruit to produce gallons of cider each year.
“In October, we host a cider fest,” said Lape. “Everyone is invited. If you help with the cider pressing, you get a gallon of cider free, and it’s $1 a gallon after that.”
Those trees also provide shade for Friday’s weekly garden dinner.
“Everyone is welcome,” he said. “We take care of one another and rarely talk religion. You get to know people on a different level. It’s a beautiful situation.”
West Central Abbey Garden
This garden is more of a community partnership than a community garden.
“We partner with several organizations,” said the Rev. Jonathan Myers.
For the past five years, the Abbey has been transforming an area that once featured old, neglected raised beds and a non-functioning irrigation system.
“We got rid of the raised beds, and now it’s more like an urban farm.”
Much of the farm is cared for by members of River City Youth Ops — formerly Project Hope Spokane.
The organization creates opportunities for youth enrichment in their neighborhoods through community engagement, job training and education.
“During the summer, West Central middle and high school students grow produce and sell it at farmers markets,” Myers said. “They also harvest food for our Wednesday night community dinners.”
Every Wednesday, the church opens its doors and serves a meal, family-style for anyone who’d like to attend. The meals are about coming together, building relationships and breaking bread together at a table where all are welcome.
Another area of the urban farm is used by the Third Order Franciscans.
“It’s an order within the Anglican/Episcopal church that takes Franciscan vows,” he explained. “They’ve developed an area with fruit trees and are creating a contemplation area — a space to sit, relax or pray.”
Chokecherry trees and currant bushes are thriving.
“It’s exciting,” said Myers. “It’s a place where people can learn about creation care, which is a big part of what we do.”
The Four Seasons Herbalist Guild is also part of the Abbey’s urban farm.
“They grow herbs in a plot in our courtyard. They brew medicinal teas from the herbs and the teas are served at our Wednesday dinners,” he said. “It’s been great to work with our three partners.”
Delighting in the Soil
These church-sponsored spaces allow novices and experts alike to experience the joy of getting their hands in the soil and the delight of sampling food they’ve grown.
“We’re growing literally, figuratively and spiritually,” said Myers.