Sometimes, it is necessary to tell the story of how something developed in order to better explain where we want to take it and why. This story actually began in April of 2015, when Bishop Mugenyi William Bahemuka stayed in our home as our guest. He is the Bishop of Boga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He has a small physical presence but an immense social and spiritual one. As we drove the streets of Winter Springs, Florida, he kept asking me, “Where are all of the people?” I suddenly realized just how little true community we have in the United States because of the very things that we call blessings . . . things like air conditioning and automobiles. Staying cool and travelling great distances with ease are essential ingredients to life in Florida in 2017, but they do not mean that we must simultaneously give up any hope of maintaining community.
Every evening of Bishop William’s visit, we spent hours around the kitchen table with my family, discussing the daily challenges of life and community in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States. Slowly I began to realize how little I knew about my neighbors, let alone have any sort of relationship with them.
I joked with him that my youngest daughter, Cate, who was intently listening to the discussions, was going to leave us and follow him home to become a farmer. Little did I know t how close to the bullseye my comment would land. From that visit forward, my daughter was inspired to look into ways that we as a family could begin to lead more ecologically sustainable lives.
As part of her studies, she developed a plan for a community garden, coordinated with a local church for a piece of land, and gathered a small group to begin to prepare and plant a small 25 foot by 25 foot plot of land. Without using pesticides or machinery, her small group produced collard greens, kale, bush beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, cabbage and okra. All of the produce was donated to Hope Helps, a local food pantry, to be given to the underprivileged. Well, maybe a small portion was sent to quality control for a bit of taste testing, but that is another story for a different day.
Yesterday, Cate launched into the next phase of the journey that began with the Bishop’s visit, as she settled into a dorm room at Unity College in Unity, Maine. There, she will study sustainable agriculture for the next two years. Her fellow gardener, Adam Musacchio, will be left with lots of weeds, down one person to help plan, and even less time to continue the work.
That was when the idea hit me. What a great way to bring people together! For those committed to the hard work of planting, maintaining and harvesting, a common love of gardening could be a hub of community. I need to connect more with nature and find some physical work to maintain a modicum of fitness. Maybe others would be interested, too?
On that note, this is what is happening. We are beginning to plan for the next planting season which will begin in September. For the next several weeks, we will be choosing which crops to grow and preparing the land. We will concentrate on improving the small plot of land where we started, but there is a lot more room to grow.
There are three ways to get connected.
Call me at 407-312-3095. Let me know what you are in interested in doing and how I might be able to help.
Contact us via email at email@example.com.
Simply show up on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday and introduce yourself. I will be there most of those days between 7 and 9 am.
You are welcome to lend us a hand or develop your own little garden. We can help orient you and provide some assistance with planting schedules and other start-up tips. We also have access to Echo Farms and the Seminole Master Gardeners for more in-depth assistance.
For now, all work must be done by hand, though we would welcome any leads on inexpensive or free landscaping equipment.
Our goal is to grow produce with all natural methods of pest control, fertilizing and weed control. As we learn through research and experience, we will prepare to teach others who follow us.
Let’s follow Cate’s lead and start a new adventure!