Back to basics with a community garden

As the nation has seen an upturn in more people struggling with everyday needs, such as keeping a roof over their head and having sufficient food to eat, there has been a renewed interest in “back to basics” living.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia has started a one-third acre community garden on land provided by local Realtor, Rodney Smith.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia has started a one-third acre community garden on land provided by local Realtor, Rodney Smith.

This “back to basics” way of life has been seen in many aspects of life: clipping coupons, “staycations” and the wildly popular return to the “victory gardens” popularized during World War I and II.

But today these gardens are not so much about lessening dependence on the public food supply as they are about simply saving money. Add to that a renewed sense of community and an appreciation that with hard work comes the – literal – fruits of the labor.

Rodney Smith, a local Realtor and member of the Sussex County Planning Commission, has been very involved with the Hispanic community in Georgetown, and about 12 years ago, he befriended a pastor at a local church that was looking for land to build a permanent church.

The church, Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia (Church of God of the Prophecy), has about 225 members, most of whom are originally from Guatemala. They had had a storefront church and had been looking for property for more than a year before they found their home on Zoar Road in Georgetown.

“After a year of looking, I made arrangements to subdivide my farm on the south side of Georgetown,” explained Smith.

Then, this past year, Smith arranged for his tenant farmers to take an additional third of an acre out of commercial production, to become a community garden. The garden fits in nicely with the 5 acres of church grounds and soccer fields for the congregation.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Anastacio Matamoros, a native of Nicaraugua and a New York state transplant, said having the garden is very exciting, as it puts the congregation in their comfort zone.

“Since a lot of people come from farms, it’s been very exciting,” he explained. “It’s the first year, so we don’t know how good the experiment will be, but it is definitely something we will keep doing.”

He made the announcement about the new garden one Sunday and has no shortage of helpers ever since.

The garden boasts sunflowers around its perimeter, as well as beans, peas, watermelons, squash, cantaloupe, sweet corn, peppers and radishes inside. And, in addition to acres and acres of corn on Smith’s other farmland, the garden juts up to a prior Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP) parcel. Smith had enrolled a few acres in the DNREC Fish and Wildlife program a few years back and, even though that agreement has expired, has still kept it up.

“It’s great,” he said. “There’s bees, spiders, snakes, crickets and grasshoppers, quail — it’s action-packed.”

As far as the community garden, Smith said it’s simple but will get the job done.

“It’s nothing exotic,” said Smith. “It’s about 50 or 60 feet wide and 300 foot in length. It will help give them a sense of community and soften their bills at the checkout counter.”
“I am pleased with the interaction to make this come about,” he continued, noting the contributions of many involved in bringing the community garden to life. “A fellow came out and gave time and energy with his plow. My tenant farmers agreed to take it out of their production. I think it will be a nice, ‘green’ thing.”

Matamoros said the church also partners with the Maryland Food Bank, and any extra vegetables will go to that ministry, as well.

“The church has become their core for spiritual growth,” said Smith, who since befriending the pastor has made several mission-type trips to Guatemala and has helped with building funds for several churches there.

“And extending that to the garden has become more substantive growth. They had food for the soul and now they have food for the belly,” he said.

Smith added that they plan on using rain barrel technology for irrigation, although he joked that lately, because of the abundance of rain, they haven’t needed it yet.
He noted that the congregation did have a garden tractor, but it was stolen. If anyone has a lawn/garden tractor they would be willing to donate or sell to the community garden at a reduced rate, they can call Matamoros at (302) 236-5955.