Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Your Church Ready for a Garden? Via Flourish

After our recent Giving Gardens workshops at the Vineyard Community Church's Healing Center, this post on Flourish's blog really felt relevant to our programs and motivations. Click the title to check out the original post.

What is so refreshing about sitting on a front porch? It can be the company you’re sitting with, a gentle breeze, or an impromptu jam session. But a lot of the time, it’s encouraging just to have a physical space in which to enjoy creation in the company of others.

The beauty of God is in your midst when you plant a flower garden.

Most American churches do not have a physical front porch where folks can gather to enjoy God’s fresh air. But the lack of a front porch shouldn’t inhibit the development of a front porch culture. An alternative outdoor space that is often easier for churches to construct than an actual front porch is a garden. Much like a front porch, a garden welcomes us into a relaxed, fresh air setting and encourages curiosity among passersby, strengthening community ties.

But is your church ready for a garden? If so, there’s a lot to consider before breaking ground: Do you want a flowerbed with a curbside bench for weary walkers? Or is your church up for establishing a full-blown vegetable garden to feed the neighborhood?

If dreams of ecclesial-based produce are floating through your head, lead your church in responding to this questionnaire to get started:

Church Gardening Questionnaire

1. Is there support in your church for a garden? You will likely need to share a report on a potential garden with your church’s governing body to gain that support. Addressing the following questions in that report will help you make your case.

2. Would your larger community benefit from having a community garden in its midst?

3. Does your church have a clear understanding of its goals for the garden?

  • Will the garden space be open to church members only, or to the wider community?
  • Will the garden be primarily a place for rest and meditation? If this is the case, you may want to be sure you include seating and perhaps a prayer walk in the garden.
  • Will the garden provide a space for gathering, holding events, or building community in groups? If so, you may want to factor picnic benches, shelters, and waste receptacles into your plan.
  • Will the garden produce food for church members? For the wider community (either directly or in partnership with another entity)?
  • Will the garden provide a place for groups to learn and volunteer?

4. Does your church know what type of garden it would like to establish? (Note: these garden themes are not exclusive of one another, and can overlap. However, it’s helpful to know the main thrust of your garden before you begin planning it.

  • A flower garden: Amenable to variable levels of light, moisture, and soil pH, a flower garden helps your church bring creation into the sanctuary by providing a treasure trove of cut flowers for decoration. It can provide a beautiful respite for souls in need of restoration, and a volunteer site for students, seniors, and individuals in rehabilitation programs. It also provides instant, free floral arrangements for church members experiencing illness, grief, or celebration
  • A prayer garden: Like the flower garden, a prayer garden is adaptable to geographic and climatic variations. The amount of upkeep it will require can be determined by those who plan it, as the goal of this garden isn’t to produce a harvest or even cut flowers. Planning a prayer garden allows for a creative use of space and garden elements: prayer walks or labyrinths to encourage walking and meditation; nooks and crannies where folks can read and pray; benches, gazebos, and tables to rest on; water features to soothe with their gentle sounds; and signs with quotations on them to encourage those in prayer. A prayer garden can provide peace and rest for those undergoing illness or rehabilitation.
  • A vegetable garden: Requiring the most work and specific conditions, this garden also produces the most visible harvest. Sun, healthy soil, access to water, and a lot of sweat goes into a vegetable garden. But the requirement of physical labor may open opportunities to work with other groups and partners in your church’s community, and provide volunteer opportunities to anyone from school children to individuals on probation. Provided it is large enough, a vegetable garden can also produce healthy food to feed the neediest.
  • A container garden: A container garden allows your church to produce a harvest of fruits and vegetables even without

    Container garden can-do.

    access to a vast swath of land or eight hours of sunlight. This garden takes some ingenuity, but it can help a church locked in a sea of concrete to add some green. It is also a terrific learning tool for children. Classes can work container gardens and learn about healthy eating, natural life cycles, and our connections to creation. Seniors and members of your congregation with special needs can also find joy in gardening in a space that is limited and accessible.

  • A wildlife garden: Establishing a wildlife garden is a conservation tool that provides food and safety for local creatures, especially in suburban or urban areas. It also creates a great learning opportunity for schools and other educational groups to discover more about their local ecosystems. This kind of garden will require less regular maintenance than a vegetable or flower garden, but it may be difficult to establish if your municipality understands the wildlife you’re trying to attract to be pests.
  • A native garden: Much like a wildlife garden, a native plant garden works in a symbiotic relationship with the land and the creatures living on it. Requiring less maintenance because it is perfectly suited to your area, a native garden can provide a valuable learning space for school and community groups. It is also beneficial to the land on which it is placed, nourishing the soil, taking in only the water naturally available to it, and providing food for local wildlife. It will not, however, provide you with cut flowers or a human food harvest to the extent that other garden types will.

5. Does your church have (or have access to) the physical and financial capacity to start a garden? This community gardening site can help you brainstorm the amount of space and money you may need to get a garden together, but here are some general financial factors to take into consideration:

  • land: Does your church own property that would support a garden? If not, is it feasible to buy or rent land for this purpose? What sort of financial partnerships could be made with other institutions to make this possible?
  • soil and mulch: Establishing a compost bin in your garden will reduce your need to buy soil, but to start your garden you want to ensure a healthy source of nutrients for your plants.
  • gardening tools: shovels, trowels, rototillers, wheelbarrows, buckets, wood (especially for raised beds), rakes, hoes, hoses, rain barrels
  • plants: seeds, seedlings, transplants, cuttings, etc. Also consider what you will be feeding your plants, and how much that plant food will cost you.
  • larger garden elements: a toolshed, compost bin, picnic tables, bird feeders, bird baths, benches, gazebos, fences, stones or gravel for paths, a water source, lighting, trash and recycling receptacles

It takes a community to make a community garden.

6. Are there people who live close enough to your church to tend the garden?

7. Are there people in your church with basic, proven gardening skills?

8. Is there ample physical space, exposed to at least six hours of sunlight, available for your church to establish a garden? How much space is accessible to you will help you determine what kind of garden would be appropriate for your church.

9. Are there potential institutions and non-profits in your community (a grocery co-op, a food pantry, a shelter, or a school) that might benefit from your garden and be able to provide you with volunteer support?

10. Are there community members or institutions that could provide your garden with donations or funding to get it started and keep it going? These might include members of the local business community, hardware stores, nurseries, florists, sister churches, etc.

Taking these questions into consideration as you plan a church garden will set your community on its way to establishing a hospitable, outdoor space in which to share the refreshment of God’s love (and maybe his juiciest peaches or sweetest strawberries) with your neighbors!

Ohio Supermarket Composting via BioCycle

Read this article by Joe Goicochea - he's a big fan of the food waste composting program at Marvin's Organic Gardens.

Ohio Supermarket Composting

BioCycle October 2009, Vol. 50, No. 10, p. 18

State and grocery chain commitment lead to successful food waste diversion pilot that could motivate others to replicate program.

Joe Goicochea

IN JULY 2008, the Kroger supermarket chain decided to expand its active role in the community to include an environmental element. The company’s first food scrap composting program was rolled out in 24 Ohio stores. In just four months, more than 650 tons of food waste were diverted from landfills and instead composted. The project proved so successful that Kroger recently added a dozen more of its Columbus-area stores and six Toledo-area stores earlier this summer. To date, more than 2,000 tons of organics have been recovered. “Our stores are proud to be part of a pioneering effort with the state of Ohio to start, sustain and excel at a compost/recycling program,” says Marne Fuller, who is with Retail Operations for Kroger’s Columbus division. The state of Ohio hopes the successes of the Kroger food waste composting project, and the connection made between environmental stewardship and community leadership, will motivate other grocers and industries to implement similar programs.

Kroger first learned of opportunities to divert food waste from landfills at a stakeholders’ meeting held by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) in 2007. The idea was further discussed by the Environmental Task Force created by the Ohio Grocers Foundation (OGF). OGF received a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to develop a supermarket manual to help grocers plan and implement food waste composting programs. As the manual neared completion, Kroger volunteered to conduct a waste audit, which revealed that nearly 60 percent of the waste at its stores consisted of compostable material. Kroger then committed 24 of its Ohio stores to participate in a four-month pilot project.

The pilot project was designed to determine logistical and economic feasibility. Store managers monitored the efficiency of separating compostable wastes from packaging both in terms of time and contamination. Departments selected to participate in the project used containers with clearly marked signage and lined with compostable bags. In many stores this included produce, floral, deli, bakery and dairy. Prior to the project, Kroger had a program in place to recycle corrugated cardboard, but the compost facilities encouraged the inclusion of waxed corrugated and soiled paper — a carbon source for the compost facility, that also absorbs liquids and controls odors during collection. The hauling costs were also studied to compare disposal costs at the local landfill to transporting the organics up to 40 miles west to the nearest permitted compost facility. The study determined that it would be economically feasible to divert food scraps to compost facilities despite the relatively low landfill tipping fees (with a state average of $35/ton).

The start-up of the pilot project did encounter challenges, similar to any other program that requires behavioral change. Store employees neededto adapt to the new task of separating waste streams. Each store selected an employee to champion the program by motivating and assisting coworkers. Employees seemed to embrace the program once the purpose of separating organics and the environmental benefits of composting were understood through educational efforts. Kroger filmed a training video at one of its participating stores and the composting facility to communicate the purpose of the program. The video is now a training requirement for all employees, and has reduced contamination to a level that is manageable by the composting facility.

Kroger stores previously placed all wastes in a compactor that required pick-up every 10 to 15 days. Twenty-one participating stores designated the compactor to food waste and placed regular trash in box dumpsters. On average, compactors filled with compostable wastes were hauled every 15 to 20 days. The reduced frequency of hauling has factored into the economic sustainability of the program. The recent opening of a composting facility in central Ohio, and an anaerobic digestion facility that will undergo construction later this year, will also make food waste programs attractive by reducing hauling distances.


As Kroger plans to expand its food waste composting program, OGF hopes that the publication of its supermarket manual will interest other grocers implementing similar programs. The state of Ohio wants to apply the successes of the grocery industry to other industries that generate significant quantities of food waste. Ohio EPA and ODNR, in collaboration with private and public stakeholders, plan to connect the Kroger and OGF successes with Ohio’s Food Scraps Recovery Initiative to lead the state forward in projects involving organics diversion and renewable energy.

Ohio’s Food Scraps Recovery Initiative was launched in June 2007 with the goal of capturing Ohio’s portion of the estimated 26 million tons of food waste generated in the U.S. each year. The initiative has focused on education, infrastructure development and the partnerships needed to develop and implement a successful diversion program (see “Food Scraps Recovery in Ohio,” BioCycle April 2008). After a year of statewide stakeholders’ meetings that targeted composting facilities and waste haulers, Ohio is now in a position to offer food waste composting services to businesses and communities in its major cities.

In June 2007, there were only three remote locations with composting facilities that were actively accepting and processing food waste. Eighteen months later, this number has tripled and three proposed solid waste anaerobic digesters are planned for construction later this year. Not only has the number of composting facilities significantly increased, but the location of the facilities has established an infrastructure that can serve the more populated areas of the state including Columbus, Cleveland/Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo.

While the establishment of these facilities is a result of composting facility operators identifying community needs, the timing can also be attributed to Ohio EPA and ODNR programs. Since 2007, these agencies have hosted several stakeholders’ meetings and provided Community and Market Development grants totaling $2 million. Ohio’s tiered regulatory approach has motivated many yard waste composting facilities to change facility status to a food waste classification. Proposed rule changes aim to further promote food waste composting by streamlining regulations for institutional composting. This is gaining popularity at colleges and universities, correctional facilities and business campuses.

The Ohio Compost Association recently amended its name to the Organics Recycling Association of Ohio (ORAO). It also has been integral to the development of food waste diversion in the state. ORAO held two Food Scraps: Create a Diversion! conferences in 2008 to provide technical assistance to composters who were interested in accepting food waste. The association included sessions introducing anaerobic digestion, recognizing the emerging industry’s future role in recovering organics.

The Ohio Grocers Foundation continues to reinforce opportunities for organics recovery by supermarkets. The agendas for the organization’s quarterly Environmental Task Force meetings focus heavily on food scraps diversion identifying current and future solutions for its members. In addition to commercial composting facilities, OGF is interested in anaerobic digestion facilities and on-site solutions that may offer renewable energy to offset store operational costs. Regardless of the management option, OGF’s Composting and Diversion Guide has been widely distributed to assist grocers (and other sectors) to develop programs, and is available at

The state plans to showcase the successes of Kroger to communities throughout Ohio to develop food scrap diversion programs. “Kroger should be commended for taking the initiative and boldly embracing a food scrap composting programs,” said Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski. “The results of this project are beneficial to Kroger and our environment. I encourage other grocers and industries to implement their own program all across Ohio.” Solid waste management districts in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Akron hosted local stakeholder meetings this past spring to facilitate the partnerships needed to sustain diversion programs. The state plans to work with local governments to identify the most effective way to market the program. Advertising campaigns may include community newsletters, council meetings and social networking web sites such as

The Kroger pilot project not only demonstrates the feasibility of a food waste diversion program but also the connection of environmental stewardship and community leadership. Central Ohio plans to transition existing and future food waste composting programs into sources of renewable energy with the construction of a community anaerobic digester scheduled to open this winter. Businesses and communities can be a part of conserving landfill space, reducing landfill emissions and producing renewable energy by simply diverting food waste to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. While we may think everyone is aware of the relationship between organics, composting and renewable energy, many of these concepts are new to businesses and communities. Kroger’s commitment in Ohio and other states across the country have begun to make the connection more visible and have sparked renewed interest in organics management.

Joe Goicochea of the Ohio EPA, Environmental Supervisor of the Compliance Assistance & Inspection Support Unit, has been active in promoting food scraps recovery in the state and working with other regions.

Copyright 2009, The JG Press, Inc.

Damaging affects of cross pollination from terminator genes in crops

Check out this great article by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger of

Corporations like Monsanto are playing God with the food supply. Did you ever wonder what happens when all the genetically modified, pesticide-compatible, gene-terminated, laboratory-concocted Frankenfoods end up genetically contaminating the natural crops we depend on for a sustainable food future? In this comic, I explore this important concept by showing the plight of a farmer fretting over an empty bag of seedless watermelon seeds.

You may find this surprising to learn, but U.S. corporations have actually designed, patented and aggressively promoted "gene terminator" plant technology that causes second-generation plants to self-destruct. By doing this, the corporation can control intellectual property (seed patents) and demand royalties on seeds from poor farmers in third world countries. It eliminates the whole practice of "saving seeds" and propagating food from one plant generation to the next -- a practice that humankind has depended on for survival since the beginning of human history.

In doing so, this gene terminator technology is a crime against both nature and humanity. To deny farmers the ability to propagate seeds from one generation to the next is to enslave humanity in a system of corporate control that violates the laws of nature and God. Care to take a guess which U.S. corporation is engaged in this activity? If you guessed Monsanto, you're right. Click here to read news about Monsanto's terminator gene at the Organic Consumers Association.

You can also follow the news on this topic at

If you buy seedless watermelons, or seedless grapes, or GM soy products, you're already supporting the corporations that are altering the food supply. Seedless grapes are not natural, and they remove the very part of the grape that contains powerful cardiovascular medicine. Have you ever heard of the nutritional supplement called grape seed extract? Guess where it comes from? ... Grape seeds, of course. It's some of the best cardiovascular medicine known to modern science, far more potent than any prescription drug, yet with zero negative side effects. Yet food companies have removed it from the food supply and promoted "seedless grapes" as a benefit to consumers! (Of course, grape skins also contain powerful medicine called resveratrol, but grape seeds contain different medicines called proanthocyanidins and PCOs, which you can read about at the Physician's Desk Reference).

What's at risk: the future of human life on planet Earth

In this cartoon, the farmer character is fretting over something the entire human race is going to suddenly realize one day: Playing God with seeds and the food supply for the purpose of extracting maximum corporate profits is to plae the very future of humankind at extreme risk. Suppose the terminator gene crops somehow cross-pollinate staple food crops that now feed the world... what happens then? Imagine all the wheat grown in the United States suddenly self-destructing after a single growing season. Mass starvation would quickly ensue, followed by economic collapse, military action and quite possibly the collapse of the nation itself. And the same is true in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America, too.

This is what's at stake with terminator gene technology. For the sake of maximizing corporate profits, the Monsanto corporation is willing to place the very future of humankind at risk. But it's no surprise to learn Monsanto is behind this crime against nature -- this is the same corporation that tried to patent the pig, claiming it owned the genetic code of hogs. This is also the same corporation that promoted aspartame to the world by purchasing a company called Searle, whose CEO was a man named Donald Rumsfeld. He strong-armed the FDA to get aspartame approved as "safe," and we've seen alarming increases in brain tumors and neurodegenerative diseases ever since.

I believe there is no natural law that evil corporations led by greedy men will not violate in order to increase their own power or profits. Corporations have proven they will poison the environment, kill members of the public, bribe politicians, violate federal law, engage in competitive espionage, threaten critics, bribe the media, endanger lives, wipe out animal species and sacrifice the very future of life on planet Earth in order to squeeze out one more quarter of filthy profits. And they will do it with a straight face, while actually claiming they are "green."

There will be a day when the people will rise up against the corruption and overreaching power of the corporations. In time, they will reclaim their natural right to seeds, a clean environment, and natural health remedies. Today's patent laws -- which give ownership over virtually all commonsense ideas to corporations -- will crumble, and governments that colluded with corporations to strip power, health and dollars from the people will pay the price.

Until that day, of course, it's business as usual in the free market: Screw the people, violate the planet, desecrate nature and keep that share price propped up as high as possible. That's business as usual in the United States, a nation that has sold its soul to the highest bidder on eBay and now stands as an alarming historical example of what happens when a free market economic abandons basic ethics and human rights.

Must-see documentary: The Corporation. Watch this if you really want to know the truth about how corporations threaten the very future of humankind.

What can you do about all this? Grow heirloom plants, buy organic, non-GM foods and refuse to do business with corporations that use GM foods.

Inform yourself with these online resources:

Seed Savers Exchange

The International Seed Saving Institute

Save Our Seeds

See the movie The Future of Food or buy the DVD.

Read this great article by Devvy Kidd on the future of food.

Eating organic frozen food? Buy from Amy's Kitchen, which uses no genetically modified ingredients.

Wildflower Enthusiasts Gather for Flora-Quest

Many of Ohio’s foremost botanists will be leading field trips the weekend of May 1-2, 2010 in the beautiful hills of Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio. Flora-Quest is a botanical retreat geared towards learning, meeting like-minded people, and above all, appreciating the most spectacular flora in all of Ohio.

The rugged, hilly landscape and steep forested slopes are blanketed with an incredible array of flora. Botanically, Shawnee represents the northern most outposts for many Appalachian plants that one would otherwise have to go to the Great Smokey Mountains to find. Early May is peak for wildflowers, and the hills will be cloaked with trillium, over a dozen species of violets, native magnolias, wild azaleas, orchids and many more. As an added bonus, well over 100 species of birds occur in the forest in spring, including scores of our most colorful jewels like Scarlet Tanager, Hooded Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Bring your binoculars!

Guest speakers representing Ohio State Parks, The Nature Conservancy and the Ohio Heritage Botanists will highlight recent efforts for botanical conservation. Jenny Richards and Pete Whan know their subjects well, as they live within this region and are intimately familiar with the flora. Dr. Harvey Ballard will present an evening program on Violets, including Ohio’s arguably most beautiful and rare Bird-foot Violet, Viola pedata. Greg Schneider from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will also present on the fascinating work of the Ohio Heritage Botanists. A special FREE program Friday evening April 30th will preview the diversity of Shawnee State Park.

There will be other bonuses, too, such as special evening field trips, vendors, and an optional trip to The Eulett Center and more. The center of activities will be the beautiful Shawnee Lodge and Resort, located in the heart of the forest. Take this opportunity to hike the newest properties in TNC’s Sunshine Corridor, visit a private preserve, improve your photography skills or kayak the Scioto Brush Creek. You will be amazed to discover the diversity in southern Ohio!

Please, visit the website at for more information. Registration and complete trip descriptions are available on-line.

Flora-Quest will be May 1 & 2 at Shawnee State Park.

Photo: Bird-foot Violet, Viola pedata credit John Howard

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Organic Baby Spinach Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing



- 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut milk

- Grated zest of 1 lime

- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

- 2-1/2 tsp sugar

- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger

- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

- 1/4 tsp Asian chile sauce

- Sea salt, to taste


- 5 oz organic baby spinach

- 1 small organic carrot, coarsely grated

- 1/2 cup each julienned mango & papaya

- 1/3 cup julienned jicama

- 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds

- 2 Tbsp shredded sweet coconut


Make the dressing by combining the ingredients in a jar and shake


Place the spinach and carrot in a large bowl. Add two-thirds of the dressing

and toss. Divide the dressed mixture between 4 plates and garnish each

serving with some of the mango, papaya, jicama, sunflower seeds, and

coconut. Drizzle the remaining dressing atop each salad and serve


Source: Earthbound Farm Organic

1. Glass reformed from recycled glass instead of raw materials reduces air

pollution up to 20% and water pollution by 50%.

2. Americans use 50 million tons of paper per year, consuming a little more

than 850 million trees.

3. If 25% of families replace 10 plastic bags with reusable bags, it would

reduce production by at least 2.5 billion bags per year.

4. By turning your central heating thermostat down by one degree, your fuel

consumption can be cut up to 10%.

5. In Malaysia, 125 acres of tropical forest has more species of trees than

the entire continent of North America has.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Promotion: Organic Vegetable Garden Supplies Giveaway!

At the end of March, we are giving one lucky person an Organic Vegetable Garden Supplies Package from Marvin's Organic Gardens! Here are the details of what you can win and how:

Tell us what your favorite veggie is and how you like it prepared. You can post this information on our Facebook Fan Page or you can comment directly on this blog entry. Either way, your veggie and preparation will count as one submission. You may enter up to 2 times per person. You must enter by March 31, 2010.

At the end of the month, Marvin, owner of Marvin's Organic Gardens, will pick his favorite entry. You could post a recipe or a picture of your family eating the veggie. Originality and creativity are highly encouraged!

An Organic Vegetable Garden Supplies Package! You will receive 1.5 yards of Marvin's Organic Garden's homemade compost, 1 yard of shredded leaf mulch, 10 organic vegetable plants and 4 packets of organic seeds. We will also include 1 roll of our NEW Control Roll to help control weeds and watering needs. Value of $175.00.