Inspired by a community garden growing behind the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Chisholm Street, two Alpena churches have started a second such garden for local residents to tend.
First Church of God and Resurrection Lutheran Church, which currently share space on the corner of Brooke and Grant streets, kicked off the new joint project May 31 with a picnic. To date, 14 plots have been taken over by community members and another 33 plots are tended by church volunteers.
"We saw the garden behind the Habitat ReStore and thought it was a really good way to bring the community together and have a similar project on this side of town," said Julie Wood, director of Go Ministry for Resurrection Lutheran. "We're surrounded by apartment complexes and people who don't have access to a lot of land to grow their vegetables."
Those who opted to work a plot were given tomato plants, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, pole beans and regular bush beans. They also filled in with their own choices of vegetables such as broccoli, kohlrabi, herbs and even chick peas.
"Everyone is pretty excited," said volunteer Grant Sork, who serves as caretaker for the project. "It's nice to see the people out there. They always seem to be in a good mood when they are out there gardening. It's kind of relaxing for them and it does the soul good to see things grow."
Sork, a member of First Church of God, said the church owns about eight acres of land.
"It's a big huge yard so we decided to put it to use and help the community out," Sork said. "The response has been great. There's been people calling about it. A lot of times you see people out there with their children. It's good family time out there."
Donations of top soil and the use of equipment as well as discounts by several local businesses helped to make the community garden possible.
"Everybody we talked to, when we told them what we were doing, they all were more than willing to give us the best deal they could on the materials," Sork said.
Some of those assisting with the project were Tractor Supply, Goodrich, Bushes and Blooms, Ron Werth, Jim Chapman and Ken Parsons.
The two churches hope to continue the community garden each year. Plots were mapped out in a 5x8-foot size to make it easier for gardeners to reach across and work in them. According to Sork, there is room for a total of 109 plots at the site.
Produce from the additional 33 plots currently tended by volunteers will ultimately benefit the community as well.
"The hope is that when we harvest the produce it will be donated to a local soup kitchen or food pantry so free produce will be given away at the end," Wood said.