BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
RED MILL — Nimmo United Methodist Church’s community garden feeds people and provides an outlet for pandemic-weary residents eager to be outside.
Church members and community volunteers of all ages, including some school groups, help maintain the garden. It grows everything from flowers and herbs to common garden vegetables. The diversity of plants is increased in the 34 plots that are rented to area residents, who plant ornamentals or vegetables according to their own taste.
I hadn’t had a chance to visit the garden in a couple of years, but I recently strolled through it with the Rev. Amanda Webber and Melody Jeffrey, who coordinates the garden with volunteer Jo-Anne Munroe. I noticed how much it’s grown since 2008, when church members and other volunteers first started growing vegetables to donate to the Judeo-Christian Outreach Cernter.
Over the years, the garden expanded, and church members began monthly community dinners during the summer to showcase vegetables and raise funds for the church. Last year, the pandemic prevented these fundraisers, but it also increased the community’s need for the garden.
Some people suffered from food insecurity. Others, including kids and senior citizens, needed an outdoors outlet. So 400 square feet of garden space was added, school groups were invited to help and eight new plots were made available.
“We really have seen an intergenerational interest in nature and in gardening,” Webber told me. During the pandemic, the garden provides a safe, fresh-air activity for kids and peace and quiet for adults.
“One of the blessings that this church has is that we have a lot of land even though we’re in the middle of the city,” Webber said, “and the trees keep it quiet back here.”
The church garden and grounds, buffered by a line of trees, were quiet during my visit despite afternoon traffic on Princess Anne Road. The early 19th century church has maintained a bucolic atmosphere despite the nearby suburban encroachment.
Volunteers grow a variety of herbs and vegetables including basil, squash, asparagus, green beans, melons, cucumbers, peppers and sweet potatoes. In addition to contributing to area charities, the church created a food pantry with the help of Cullipher Farm Market, which donates produce.
“It’s exciting,’ Jeffrey said. “The food we’re growing is going right into our own food pantry.”
This year, volunteers have picked over 400 pounds of squash for donation. Even during my visit, when summer crops were winding down, there were still melons and vegetables on the vine.
There are also flowers, including those grown by Webber’s son, 13-year-old Noah. He had never gardened before, but he wanted to create an attractive entrance for the garden. So he planted pansies along the walkway, which were replaced with marigolds and a chrysanthemum as the season progressed.
Many who rent garden plots are also growing flowers, and some donate them to the church’s Blessing Ministry. Under that program, church members deliver baskets of flowers and produce to area residents who need to be cheered up, or, in some cases, congratulated.
“With the pandemic, it’s become a way to encourage people who are shut in,” Jeffrey said.
Next year, the church members hope that they can resume their monthly dinners and perhaps hold them in their outdoor pavilion, which Webber hopes to renovate.
Garden plots will also be available for rent, and, in the meantime, volunteers are still needed for the community garden as fall gardening season begins.
More information is available on Facebook via @nimmogardens. You can also contact Rebecca Lear, the volunteer coordinator, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church at (757) 427-1765.
The author is a contributor to The Independent News. Her journalism has also appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.
© 2021 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC