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Congregation Embraces Organic Gardening to Combat Hunger

Youth from Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church prepare garden beds for planting. —Ethan Russell

Youth from Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church prepare garden beds for planting. —Ethan Russell

August 26, 2016

The rolling, beautiful valleys of Marin County, California, provide the perfect backdrop for Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church.. One look at this majestic landscape and it doesn’t take much to inspire people to protect and nurture it.

With growing concern about the environment, drought and children living in poverty, the Sleepy Hollow congregation formed an environmental “green team” in 2014 and didn’t have to go far to determine where to start.

“We have this huge backyard that God has given us and we’ve got gardeners and a commitment to feeding the hungry, so where do we go with all of this?” asked Pastor Beverly Brewster. “We have a lot of garden people in our congregation, and they looked at this sunny backyard and had a vision.”

Working with a Presbyterian Hunger Program grant partner, the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative, church members developed a plan to create an organic “justice” garden.

“This is a well -to-do suburban neighborhood. People have big yards, and a lot of them have their own gardens,” said Brewster. “We decided that a community garden wasn’t the need here. The need was to grow food for people who do not get good organic, fresh vegetables.”

After two successful growing seasons, Brewster says God has blessed their garden with huge tomatoes.

“It’s been interesting because many of the neighbors have grown tomatoes but are amazed at how large ours have been,” she said. “We have been so blessed and have actually grown 1,000 pounds of organic tomatoes the past two seasons.”

The vegetables grown in the garden are given to low-income senior citizens and children connected with the food bank or are sold at a church farm stand. The money raised then goes back into the garden.

Sleepy Hollow has developed a relationship with a nearby school that serves underprivileged children who are more than happy to receive the garden’s bounty.

“Approximately 93 percent of these children live well below the poverty line,” said Brewster. “When we take our vegetables to the school, the children pick up the tomatoes and eat them like candy. It is such a treat for them, and it is amazing to see how their faces brighten up.”

But Sleepy Hollow is about more than growing organic vegetables. The church is involved with water conservation, securing a grant to put in a rainwater catchment to support the gardening efforts. The congregation is also raising funds for solar panels.

“We want to reduce our carbon footprint and be a green church,” said Brewster. “We also hope to eventually put in an electric car charging station.”

Brewster says the projects and planning have energized the church.

“This has been fantastic. The people love seeing something come out of nothing, and it has been an inspiration to be a part of it,” she said. “People are so joyful. It has been revitalizing for the church.”

Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus:  Presbytery of the Redwoods

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff:

Robert E. Conover, Mission Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Pam Sommer, Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper
Patty Sanders, Hunger Action Advocate

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Mickie Choi, PILP
Jocelyn Chung, PMA

Let us pray

Creator God, we are grateful for food that nourishes our bodies and for servants who, having heard your voice and felt your Spirit in their lives, share a compassionate discipleship that seeks to alleviate hunger. May your Spirit descend on us, that we too might live as those who witness to your love and grace in our community. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 88; 148
First Reading Job 9:1-15, 32-35
Second Reading Acts 10:34-48
Gospel Reading John 7:37-52
Evening Psalms 6; 20

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