2017 was an amazing year for The Vegetable Garden of the Taber Alberta Stake. After a spring with many days of strong winds, it turned warm enough to allow planting an area that is roughly the size of a football field. The summer was unusually hot, and The Vegetable Garden produced an extraordinarily bountiful harvest.
As a result, literally, thousands of people across Alberta were able to keep food on their tables. In addition to assisting many young single adults living in the Lethbridge North Stake, The Vegetable Garden’s produce was distributed to food banks in Taber, Coaldale, Vauxhall, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Calgary, and Banff as well as the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen.
This was the second year leaders of the Taber Stake directed that produce from a vegetable garden be donated primarily to food banks. The aim of the stake is to obey one of God’s longstanding commandments: “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15: 11). Trying to build upon the success of the stake’s first attempt at taking care of all activities involved in tending The Vegetable Garden, The Taber Stake Presidency challenged leaders of the project to double the amount of produce raised in 2016, which was 8,500 lbs. Remarkably, even the stake presidency’s challenge was more than doubled—producing and delivering over 34,000 lbs. of vegetables and fruit.
One of the main reasons behind this remarkable increase was community involvement. Garden leaders invited people from all religious denominations and several community groups in the Town of Taber to join stake members at The Vegetable Garden. Several churches responded and encouraged their members to join in and assist with the work. Community volunteers included groups from the ATB bank staff, Boy Scouts, and students from the Ace Place School.
Tasks ranged from planting or weeding to harvesting whichever crop was ready for delivery. Each week a ward was assigned to come to The Vegetable Garden to help do whatever was needed. In July, the Taber Stake was blessed with the addition of a new ward, Coaldale. From July to the end of the harvest, the Coaldale Ward enthusiastically embraced the project and sent their ward members each week to help. All of these cooperative and volunteer efforts not only helped get a great deal of the work done but also helped develop many new friendships. Altogether, community and stake volunteers donated over 1884 hours of labour.
Other changes for The Vegetable Garden involved the types of crops grown. The Vegetable Garden leaders seriously considered what kinds of vegetables to grow. They asked themselves what would people like that they perhaps could not afford to purchase. They also considered what types of vegetables could be effectively distributed to food banks. As a result of these deliberations, they seeded about 100 raspberry plants and 100 asparagus plants, transplanted over 200 June-bearing strawberry plants, planted about 100 ever-bearing strawberry plants, and planted 50 tomato and 50 pepper plants as well as starting a rhubarb patch.
These new plantings were in addition to the regular 2016 list of garden vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, red beets, green beans, peas, cabbage, zucchini, squash of all kinds, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin, onions, cucumbers, and, of course, some fantastic tasting Taber Corn.
On a side note, the leaders entered some of The Vegetable Garden’s corn in the Corn Tasting Contest held at the annual Taber Cornfest—and came in third place.
Another major change to The Vegetable Garden involved the installation of a drip irrigation system. This is a great way to irrigate. Drip lines were installed in each row of vegetables, which were spaced 30 inches apart. Additional lines were installed in the strawberry patch and throughout the pumpkin and squash patches. As a result of these drip irrigation changes, less labour and management were required than maintaining an irrigation system with sprinkler pipes.
Through The Vegetable Garden project, many significant blessings were realized in both the stake and community. These blessings include the following:
Developing great relationships with the staff and manager of the Taber Food Bank.
Working alongside and getting to know so many wonderful people from different denominations and community groups.
Seeing people come work in The Vegetable Garden who might not ever step inside the doors of any church.
Watching so many people work for a common goal—to help those who may be struggling to obtain sufficient food at this time in their lives.
Watching the Lord open doors for both the needy and those who are able to assist them.
One of the key ways that Jesus Christ will recognize who is truly serving Him is explained by His counsel: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in…. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25: 35 & 40). This counsel was reiterated in modern times with the following counsel: “…behold this is the way that I have decreed to provide for my saints, the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low” (Doctrine & Covenants 104: 16). All those who helped plant, tend, or harvest The Vegetable Garden near Taber feel blessed to have been a part of God’s plan to serve and feed those in need.