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Longview church garden provides produce for the needy

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
July 11, 2013 at 10 p.m.

At the community garden run by First Baptist Church of Longview, it's not a case of "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."

Instead, the garden has been blessed by both bountiful harvests and a bevy of willing workers, organizer Meloney Ferguson said.

"We bring the produce to people in our church who are sick, elderly or homebound," Ferguson said. "We also make it available to anyone in the community who is in need and wants to come pick some fresh fruits and vegetables for their family."

Able-bodied people who come to the garden to harvest produce for their own households are asked to help out by picking more than they need and leaving it to be delivered to those who are not physically able to come to the garden, she said.

"It can be expensive to eat healthily and we want people who may be experiencing economic hardship to know this resource is available," Ferguson said. "We planted it to share."

There is no charge for the produce, but people do need to call the church and arrange a time to come to the fenced garden when it is open.

Ferguson said she and her husband, Larry, got the idea of a community garden from Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston, which had such a project when their son served there as associate pastor. They began the local garden about five years ago.

"It's grown amazingly well," Ferguson said. "People like to help, but we can always use more workers."

The garden contains asparagus, squash, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, peas, potatoes, okra, corn and blackberries. There are also fruit trees for figs, plums, peaches, pears and apples. Recently, workers constructed a grape arbor in memory of longtime church pianist Judy Owens, who died a couple of years ago.

While the people who work in the garden see it as a way to serve the Lord by feeding the hungry, all who were helping out on Thursday morning also said they enjoy being outside in the fresh air with their fellow church members.

Nell Collins, who served as the church's secretary for more than 30 years until her retirement in 2008, said working in the garden gives her a chance to spend time communing with nature and communicating with old friends.

"You're doing something for somebody else, which is always good, but I also just enjoy being out in the sun and digging in the dirt," Collins said.

Glen Brown, a deacon at the church, said that as far as he is aware theirs is the only community garden in Longview.

Church members are constantly trying to improve the garden, Brown said. In the past couple of years they've expanded it and fenced it in and now they're working on installing a sprinkler system.



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