The idea of an organic garden at Good Shepherd first sprang to life during the first Bishop’s Committee retreat with current vicar Este Cantor. It was conceived of as an extension of Good Shepherd’s ministry to the day laborers in the neighborhood, as something that would allow the congregation of Good Shepherd to work with them, rather than just offering one-time assistance. A vegetable garden could also provide food for the sandwich ministry, and the Friday lunches offered by the Multicultural Institute. In time, it was hoped, the garden could also become a source of good, organic produce for the neighborhood, an area with few organic, healthy, food options.
The garden germinated as an idea for some time while efforts continued to find a way to clear the space behind the parish hall, and to obtain funds for a gate to protect the rear of the property. A few months later, Este was approached by a number of day laborers who had been attending church on Wednesday mornings, and who offered to work on Este’s house or garden for a day in thanks. While Este didn’t feel she could accept the offer for herself, she asked if they would be willing to work on the church garden, and with their glad help, the area behind the parish hall was cleared and readied for planting.
A small grant from Alameda County Deaconry provided money to buy materials for raised beds, which were built. But then the problem arose of how to get the large amount of dirt needed into the beds! In a burst of serendipity, Este received an email from an evangelical group, Concerned Evangelicals, who were going to be in the area for a conference, and were looking for a service project to work on that Saturday. The group of about 30 men had contacted Good Shepherd after finding the church listed as an inclusive, gay-friendly, congregation online, and they were delighted to show up and help with the work of filling the raised beds, and even donated plants for the garden.
Phase one of the garden took off, with neighbors taking an interest and the day laborers helping keep the garden watered. Phase two began with the creation of a garden in the channel beside the church (now dormant due to post-fire repairs). Free Farm and Urban Adamah helped with donations for beds, and with plant starts to get the garden going.
The Good Shepherd garden grows lettuce, greens, zucchini, tomato, basil, dill, kale and beans. Three different families have plots as part of a community garden, and the food is used to help supply produce for the sandwich ministry, Friday lunches and to give away to those in need.