Edible Churchyard

At The Congregational Church of Huntington, we have been working hard to increase our giving to the Northport Food Pantry. Last month our Outreach ministry discussed the possibility of using some of the church property to grow vegetables to donate to our local food pantry. One of the problems for families that go to the pantries is that they do not receive the fresh food that would be best for them. We also know there are many frustrated gardeners in our church, who, because shade, are unable to grow vegetables at home. We also thought this would be a good educational project for our children and youth. The group decided to build a raised bed at the church as a trial for next year to see who this would work.

On Sunday morning I arrived to church to discover a bunch of lumber and a pile of topsoil sitting in the courtyard between our buildings. By coffee hour we had a beautiful raised bed filled with dark, rich, soil. We wanted to have the bed built this fall so it would be already to get started in early spring, but this was done in record time. Thanks to Greg Gardner for his quick work.

This past Friday I learned that we are not alone in this effort, and in fact there is a name for the movement: Edible Churchyard. I was at the annual alumni day at Union Seminary and attended a workshop on how the seminary is growing vegetables—in Manhattan. They have built rooftop gardens and are converting existing landscape to edible plants. Their emphasis in not only the production of fresh veggies and herbs for local families, but they also use the project to make the connection between our food and our culture.

Being able to use, and grow, more food locally and in season is not just about freshness, it also may connect us more to the rhythms and tastes of our local ecology. As Wendell Berry reminds us, “eating is an agricultural act.” I look forward to discussions around our vegetable garden, and in sermons, on how we may deepen our spirituality by how and what we eat. But let me close today with words from the poet William Carlos Williams:

“There is nothing to eat,

seek it where you will,

but the body of the Lord.

The blessed plants and the sea,

yield it to the imagination intact.”

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