Cecilton parish grows produce for community
— Bright green leaves are starting to poke out of the dirt in the straw bale garden recently installed outside Zion United Methodist Church.
The garden is currently growing peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach and beets in the bales, said Brenda Ross, a layperson with the church who is coordinating the project. Once fully grown, that produce will go into the community, she said.
Ross had the idea and members of Cecilton United Methodist Parish’s Searchlight Bible study group decided to help make it a reality after discussing it during one of their Wednesday meetings, said Dave Segermark, co-chairman of the Cecilton Parish trustees. The parish includes Zion UMC and St. Paul’s UMC.
The group looked into other ideas, such as creating raised beds, but decided against it, Segermark said.
“We’re looking for ways to get out of the box,” Segermark said.
People are now stopping to look and ask questions about the garden, visible to those traveling down West Main Street. The garden is even inspiring others to try this new style of gardening, Segermark said.
One of the advantages of this garden is that it is lowmaintenance and takes care of itself, Ross said. People do not need to bend down far to work on the garden due to the height of the bales, which are about 2 feet high. Timed soaker hoses turn on every six hours to water the plants, Ross said.
The garden has done well so far, but Ross said the group may have planted the garden too early due to the instability of the weather.
Plastic covering the seeds, which kept some heat in and the seeds safe, was recently removed, Ross said. Gardeners set up the bales on Feb. 27 and then planted seeds on March 12, she said. In order to protect the growing plants from rabbits, a wire fence was built, and shiny strips of tape were put up to keep the birds away, she said.
Ross said the other half of the garden will be planted later in the season. Those bales will include tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbage, peppers and beans, she said.
Frank Coleman, a trustee of the parish, said it is “rewarding” to work on the garden and shows people that vegetables “don’t come in cans,” but from the earth.
The produce will not be for sale, but will go into the community, Ross said. The produce is scheduled to go to such places as Faith In Action, a food pantry, and Clarivaux Farm, which offers transitional housing. Produce will also go into Cecilton, Earleville and Warwick.
Jackie Compton, vice president of Faith in Action, said she received a call from folks involved with the garden asking if the organization would want any produce for their food pantry. The organization is now waiting to receive the produce from the church, she said.
“We are very grateful to the Cecilton Parish,” Compton said.
Dave Segermark, Frank Coleman and Brenda Ross look at their straw bale garden Friday.