(Submitted photo) First Presbyterian Church of Clinton is in their fourth summer of growing produce for the community. Shown here on May 25, Brad Brigham (right) and his daughter Ava, members of the congregation, helped plant in the raised beds at the church.

First Presbyterian in Clinton growing produce for community

When the congregation at First Presbyterian Church of Clinton decided to become gardeners and share produce with the Clinton community, they jumped into the project whole-heartedly. This is the fourth summer that bountiful fruits and vegetables are being grown in raised garden beds at the church, located at 312 Church St. in Clinton.

The gardening project was first created because the Mission Committee was looking for another community outreach project. Money for the gardens was obtained through a grant from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It was decided to build the gardens during a “5th Sunday-Mission Possible” church project. Kim Bates, Craig Stauss, Rick Taylor, and Scott Bell built and filled the raised beds with rich soil in 2021. The goal was to grow enough fresh produce to share with guests of the food pantry housed in the church called Clinton Community Outreach, the Clinton Senior Center, and area care facilities. Extra fruits and vegetables were shared at an outdoor table located at the church for anyone in the community to enjoy.

The original goal was met over three growing seasons, but this year the Mission Committee, led by Ann Brigham, felt some growing pains. The garden needed a name, and the committee wanted to offer even more produce to the community. The congregation voted to name the garden “Garden of Giving at First Presbyterian Church.” An efficient and thoughtfully designed new garden produce stand was then built by Scott Bell. The portable garden stand includes large buckets to hold produce, shading the harvest that waits to be shared. By fostering a cooperative gardening spirit and using a produce share and swap model, the congregation will be able to provide more fruits and vegetables to their neighbors. The garden produce swap idea is popular with the congregation because more gardeners will be able to share their bountiful harvests with the community now.

(Submitted photo) An efficient and thoughtfully designed new garden produce stand was built by Scott Bell. The portable stand includes large buckets to hold produce, shading the harvest that waits to be shared. It sits outside of the church.

The garden project has been a labor of love for the congregation at First Presbyterian Church of Clinton. The Sunday School class made beautiful painted garden stakes to identify plants, led by their teacher Kim Bates. Gardeners in the congregation, like Dave Grzenia and Ann Brigham, have shared their knowledge of horticulture while leading a planting workshop at the end of May earlier this year. Grzenia enjoys preparing the soil with just the right amount of fertilizer, turning the soil over for the proper mix. He also starts growing seeds at home in April so they will be ready to plant. Brigham has her hands in the garden design, planning, and timely communications with the congregation.

Garden maintenance continues now as the plants begin to mature. Regular watering and weeding are done by congregants. Plants were selected due to their easy garden to table use, popularity for eating, and minimal growing space requirements. Everyone looks forward to a bountiful crop of zucchinis, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and summer squash as harvesting will begin by mid to late July.

There are many elements of faith that grow alongside a garden project like the “Garden of Giving.” A garden symbolizes hope with many loving connections between God, earth, and serving neighbors. Plants are beautiful miracles everyone sees and enjoys every growing season, and they remind people that they can grow in faith just like the tiny mustard seed.

The congregation at First Presbyterian Church of Clinton looks forward to serving their community through the “Garden of Giving” project. The new mission statement for the church, written this year, makes it clear the congregation is ready to serve: “Rooted in faith, our church family seeks to uplift and serve the Clinton Community and beyond, through the transformative power of Christ’s love.”

Look for the portable garden stand that will be located near the church, buckets overflowing with fresh produce to share and swap, and ready to serve the community. It is free to take, but swapping is also encouraged!