A Berry Patch for Shepherd Farm
From the earliest times, Christians have considered feeding the hungry to be central to the mission of the church. The Hebrews let the poor glean the fields after harvest, Jesus fed the hungry with loaves and fishes, and exhorted his disciples to "feed my sheep." Hunger and food insecurity have become increasing problems in the nation and in the St. Louis region.
The Church of the Good Shepherd has been involved consistently in outreach projects to meet the needs of the hungry in our area. We contribute canned goods and cash to the Trinity Food Pantry, the youth group has worked at World Food Day since its inception and has also volunteered at the St. Louis Area Food Bank, and parishioners regularly volunteer at the Peace Meal at St. John's Church.
It is this latter relationship that served as a springboard for our newest venture in feeding the hungry, the establishment of the Shepherd Farm garden in the spring of 2014. One of the things lacking from the Peace Meal ( and many food pantries) is the availability of fresh produce; one of the blessings Good Shepherd has in abundance is land. Consequently, we resolved to use some of the land to plant a garden, Shepherd Farm, where the produce would be donated to enhance the health, nutrition, and variety of food at the Peace Meal.
Our bounty of fresh vegetables quickly surpassed what could be used at the Peace Meal. As a result, we have also provided herbs, greens, and vegetables to the Circle of Concern, an organization providing food and emergency assistance to low income families in Valley Park, MO. Last year we also provided tomatoes to St. Stephen's food pantry following the unrest in Ferguson, and to the Cathedral for their Saturday morning breakfast. We even found a use for some of our greens damaged by a cabbage worm infestation—the Missouri House Rabbit Society. And this year, we were able to share some of our early season bounty with the Trinity Food Pantry.
In 2014, we harvested and delivered more than 2,080 pounds (or more than 4,160 servings) of fresh produce. In addition, in 2014 and 2015 the garden was the site for a very successful Vacation Bible School program based on ERD's Abundant Life Garden Project that provided experiential learning for grade school students from six different parishes to learn about good stewardship, preserving precious resources, the life cycle of plants, and hunger in St. Louis and around the world.
Our municipality, Town and Country, has been very supportive of this venture. Their community garden is based on a different model and so we are not in direct competition. In 2015, we have had members of numerous churches who are interested in starting a similar food ministry visit us to learn what has worked well, and not as well. We have hosted workdays where school and church groups have volunteered in Shepherd Farm for a few hours, or several days.
We began Shepherd Farm as a conventional vegetable garden. We would like to compliment our vegetable offerings with blackberries grown on bushes on our grounds.
The establishment of a berry patch would allow us to add another healthy choice to the vegetables we currently grow.
We have researched, and received valuable advice from master gardeners and experts as well as the University of Missouri Extension Service. This led us to the decision to establish a small patch ( 4’ x up to 60’) of a single crop (blackberries). We believe this approach would give us a good probability of being successful with a new crop, and in the shortest amount of time given our growing conditions at Good Shepherd.
This will be a learning opportunity for us and if successful, will afford us the opportunity to share what we learn with others, much as we have done with our vegetable garden. --Church of the Good Shepherd
From the November 2015 edition of Seek: Voices of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
Each year the Diocese of Missouri encourages churches and groups in the diocese to apply for a New Ventures in Community Ministry grant. The grants are awarded by the Diocesan Council from an endowment established by the diocese-wide Making All Things New campaign from some years ago.
The grants, as their name suggests, encourages new ministry, encourages stepping out of one’s comfort zone to find God’s ongoing work in the neighborhood. Or as the grant states, to “inspire congregations to dare great things for God by developing new ministries in response to changing social needs throughout the diocese.” These are meant to be start-up funds to develop new projects. The Council looks for projects that are “do-able, manageable, replicable, and sustainable by congregations.”
The New Ventures in Community Ministries Grant Committee established by Diocesan Council, with the advice and consent of the Bishop and Council. are responsible for the disposition of the income generated by the endowment fund. Traditionally, the amounts awarded to recipients are announced at the annual November meeting of Diocesan Convention, and this year is no different.
Online applications from the 2015 round include the timeline which is similar from year to year. diocesemo.org/diocesancouncil