In the Old Testament, Moses was given a commandment, sometimes referred to as the second great commandment, that said, “…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:…. Leviticus 19:18
In the Book of Mormon, we are taught, “…if ye turn away the needy, … and impart [not] of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need … behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.” (Alma 34:28)
And again, King Benjamin teaches us that, “…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
Early in 2016 the Taber Alberta Stake Presidency, heeding these admonitions, felt inspired to help build a better relationship with the community by using some of the resources available to them. One of the projects undertaken was a community garden grown for the purpose of supplying fresh produce to the Taber Food Bank.
For this purpose, an unused corner of church owned property north of Barnwell was selected as the appropriate site. This area had not been used as crop land for several years. It was very sandy, had blown badly in the strong southern Alberta winds, and had been planted with grass and alfalfa to stabilize and protect it.
After meetings with the stake presidency, assigned high councilmen, and the Taber Food Bank staff, a plan was implemented as to their needs and the time frame for delivery. About two acres of land was prepared by spraying the cover crop, then about one and one half acres were tilled to be used for the garden plot.
Water and a tall game fence were absolute necessities (deer, pronghorns, rabbits, and racoons all love fresh garden produce) so both were installed by volunteer crews. The water pipe was trenched in from a pumping station on the property and a new electric pump was installed to insure lots of pressure at the garden site.
After the ground was prepared and soil tested, compost and fertilizer were applied and the area was plotted out for planting.
On Saturday, May 14th, the call went out to members of the stake to meet at the garden to begin planting. What a turn out!!!! They came with hoes, shovels, planting equipment, energy and enthusiasm. In a very short time, one end of the garden area was planted.
The remainder (about 2/3 of the area) were machine seeded to corn and peas over a three-week period so that the corn and peas were not all ready at the same time in order to give a time spacing for the produce to be delivered to the food bank.
Each Tuesday evening thereafter we had one of the six wards in the stake assigned to work and hoe in the garden. It was also irrigated on a regular weekly basis.
After a very good growing season, the fruits of our labours became evident. The garden produced abundantly and we began harvesting in late July through September, beginning with the early peas and beans. These were all delivered fresh to the Food Bank. The later fruits and vegetables were harvested in September and October, mostly the vine plants and of course our famous Taber Corn.
In the end, we were able to benefit the Taber Food Bank with over 8000 pounds of produce and there was almost 1400 hours of time donated for the project. We learned a lot in this first attempt and will try doing better in the following years.
It was a very satisfying and profitable undertaking. Even more than the evident abundance provided by the garden were the many intangibles in the form of blessings to the stake and the community.
Some of these include:
1.Being able to meet and become better acquainted with the wonderful dedicated staff who work at the Taber Food Bank.
2. Bringing individuals, families, and wards together to work for a common purpose.
3. Watching the participation of dedicated stake members from very pregnant young moms, moms with babies in slings, little families using this as a teaching moment for their young kids, and many other families, young and old, bonding with their kids and grandkids to fill a special stewardship.
4. Mending and healing past hurts and misconceptions with the community.
5.The wonderful feeling of helping others in need.
6. Watching the Lord go before us and open doors.
7. Watching the wonder and awe in the youth as they learned about gardening and saw every fifth week how much the garden had changed.
There are many other blessings that have come from this and we expect even more as we are able to improve our efforts in the next few years. As the Saviour taught, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25: 40)
What a privilege it was this year to work with this committee and the different groups of people to make the project a great success.