DOVER — The vision of a community garden on the grounds of the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church has come into reality.
On Sunday, June 13, church members and community members planted the seeds of hope as well as bell pepper plants.
Rev. Dr. Erika D. Crawford led the church in establishing a goal this year to have a real impact on the community.
“Our goal is to have a greater impact on the community we serve and one way to do that is to go outside of the four walls of the church and into our neighborhood,” she said in a prepared statement. “This community garden, which is for everyone, is so important in fulfilling a need for affordable, fresh vegetables in our own neighborhood where sometimes there is a scarcity of healthy, fresh food.”
The dedication service began with a welcome message from garden committee member Dr. Bobby Jones who told the audience how they too could get involved and get excited about the garden.
Dr. Wilma Mishoe, past president of Delaware State University and garden committee member, said a prayer that honored the men and women of Mt. Zion that envisioned a community garden on the church property.
Next garden committee member Ms. Doris Cooper read the scripture from John 15:1-8, which in part states: “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
“The mission of the Mt. Zion AME Church Community Garden is to create an inviting garden that is inspirational, educational and sustainable to the community that surrounds our church on the corner of Queen Street and New Street,” said Kent County Master Gardener and garden committee member Cheryl Fisher. “We will have a positive impact on the community we serve in several ways. First, we want to create a beautiful space to interact with nature. Second, we want to teach our children how vegetables are grown and cultivated, not just packaged and bought in a store. Third, we want everyone to know the taste of home-grown tomatoes, collard greens and sweet potatoes. Finally, we want to empower our neighborhood residents to take charge of their health and well being by starting to grow their own food.”
Garden committee member Mr. Alvin Fisher said this garden belongs to everyone in the community.
“Of course, we all want to see the fruit of our labor and it will take all of us working together to be successful. We need our neighbors’ help not only starting our garden, but keeping it going, pulling weeds, watering and finally harvesting. Yes, we want everyone to enjoy the harvest, but first we must put in the work,” he said.
Mr. Carl Batson, who represented the church trustees, said, “We are thankful to have this garden on our property and we will support the effort in any way we can.”
Several guests attended the dedication.
City Council President Roy Sudler, Jr. said, “It’s been a while to make this happen and anything the city of Dover can do to help, we will be there.”
Delaware state Sen. Trey Paradee joined in the praise for a community garden.
“What a glorious day to get together to celebrate this garden,” he said. “It’s been a year since I’ve been inside this church and I’m so happy to be here with you today. I predict that this garden will double in size by next year and you are off to a great start.”
Mike Waskylkowski, who is with the Delaware State Small Farms Office, said, “My job is working with community gardens and I just don’t see how this can miss. It’s a great location and it will just keep growing. I hope that families will be able to spend time together in this garden.”
Rev. Crawford then scooped up a handful of soil and blessed the garden. She added, “We are asking you to join us as we make our garden grow. Help us make a difference in our neighborhood, your neighborhood. We are all brothers and sisters placed on this earth to help one another and love one another. What better way to serve your neighbor then to help plant a garden.”
Finally, with garden trowels in hand, Garden Committee Member Brother Gregory Smith and several people dug in the garden and planted the very first pepper plants. For those interested in being part of this garden team, contact the church.