In furthering its ongoing environmental stewardship and education mission, Central United Methodist Church has created and completed several ground and water conservation initiatives in 2011. Located in an ethnically- and socio-economically diverse urban area of Charlotte, NC, Central has focused its efforts this year on creating a community garden to benefit congregants, local residents, and the church’s food pantry. This outreach provides an opportunity to grow produce on a small carbon footprint while educating the community about the many environmental benefits of “growing local.” Using volunteer labor and fundraising, Central developed 24 plots, including raised beds for handicapped access and irrigation from a natural water source. Formerly a barren area adjacent to the parking lot, the space was rife with clay, rocks and asphalt waste before volunteers “harvested” debris, tilled, amended and fenced the space. To preserve water and enrich soil, volunteers tilled in 48 cubic yards of compost made from county recycled yard waste. The majority of Central’s active membership of 125 people participated in the project. This year’s harvest was plentiful, providing locally grown produce to congregants, neighborhood gardeners, and the church’s food pantry, which serves families from Albemarle Road Elementary School, a local high-poverty, high-ESL elementary with whom Central partners. A celebration and fundraiser was held in October, where a meal including “fruits of the harvest” was shared by the congregation and neighborhood participants, along with a sustainability workshop covering composting to preserve water and complementary crop planting, combined with rotation, to preserve the land.
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