Church using property to grow produce for community

Monday July 2, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Pitts field Church of Christ used to receive plenty of compliments on the sloping, manicured lawn at its Valentine Road property. So it's understandable that there was some trepidation among passersby as 16,000 square feet of that lawn were torn up in the fall and spring.

"We wanted to do something more than just mow," said Pastor Russell Moody as he stood atop the changed landscape.

And that may be an understatement, as the concerns have subsided and the excitement has grown as the fruits of that labor literally come to fruition.

The church is running what it calls the "Giving Garden," a quarter-acre parcel easily visible from the road with its rows of vegetables, homemade scare crows and sign that reads, "Love thy neighbor."

The idea came about as congregation members sought a means to give back to the community. And with 10 acres of property, the garden seemed like a natural fit. Moody said the garden is open to anyone, but it's the congregation's faith that has motivated them.

"We're a faith-based organization," said Moody. "We wanted to put our faith into action."

The garden is split into two sections. One-third is divided into 300-square-foot plots for families to grow their own vegetables. The plots and water are provided, with the only caveat that families "grow a row" for donations.

The remainder of the garden is designated to grow produce for the Western Massachusetts Food Bank and will be donated to needy organizations through out the area.

Moody noted that the church is not a farm, so scores of groups have lent their equipment and experience to making the garden work. And the help has come from all types: 90-year-old congregation member Ray Scace broke the ground, a tiller was borrowed from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, Onyx Spec ialty Paper donated water tanks, and many other local nurseries, farms and gardening clubs donated hundreds of plants.

And while the garden looks big, Moody noted that "this doesn't even put a dent in what's needed."

So the church hopes the Giving Garden will expand in the future. Moody said the church is willing to till more land this year for anyone in the community who wants to start their own garden and next year the space will be twice as large.

The church still needs a farm tractor, a cultivator, a tiller and a plow, but that hasn't deterred Moody, who pointed to a three-acre stretch on the other side of their driveway he hopes to one day plant with sweet corn.

"Eventually," said Moody, "we want to grow more than we mow."

To reach Trevor Jones:,
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