St. John’s United Methodist Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico
St. John’s United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico is the 2022 winner of the Sacred Grounds Steward category of Interfaith Power & Light’s Cool Congregations Challenge for their newly constructed food gardens that feed over 500 food-insecure adults and children each month, and their educational outreach to their neighborhood. IPL congratulates St. John’s United Methodist Church!
Read their inspiring story in the words of Tim Nuzum, member of the congregation:
The St. John’s Food Ministry prepares meals for over 500 food- insecure adults and children in Albuquerque each month. St. John’s challenged itself to build a garden on site to grow as much fresh produce as possible to offset the costs, financially and environmentally, of driving to stores or ordering produce for delivery to feed those in need. This challenge included the need for empty plots of land to have landscape fabric removed, large areas of ground leveled, hoop houses built, raised beds constructed, cubic yards of soil delivered and distributed, automatic irrigation systems installed, fences and a ramp constructed, compost bins bought or constructed, and hundreds of seeds planted.
Part of the challenge was financial where we had to fundraise to pay for the supplies needed to build our church garden. Another part of the challenge was finding enough volunteer workers to complete the tasks to stay within budget.
The most important part of the challenge was to educate the congregation to a mindset of gratitude and reciprocity for the earth and for the food that it gives us. We can only feed ourselves and others through participation in that relationship. When our actions are in alignment with God’s will, we actively tend the soil and soul to feed those in need physically and spiritually, and we leave the earth better than we found it for future generations by reducing carbon emissions and gardening sustainably.
St. John’s met our challenge by creating the Garden Ministry, a sub- group of the larger Food Ministry. The Garden Ministry consists of the Garden Team: several Master Gardeners, other volunteers in the congregation as well as the Director of Food Ministry and the Associate Pastor. The Garden Team envisioned 2-3 hoop houses, dozens of raised beds, rows of ground crops, and an irrigation system to water the whole garden.
Over 150 plants were planted in the garden: Zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, cueball squash, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, green Chile, banana peppers, coolapeno, common green beans, taverna bush beans, blue lake bush beans, Kentucky wonder beans, black-eyed peas, red onion, yellow onion, Swiss chard, corn, pumpkin, gratitude grape vines, basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, sage and oregano.
Harvest: June to October 2021
- Over 1000 individual produce items were harvested
- Over 540 lb of produce was harvested
Carbon Emissions Reduction
- Fresh produce harvested onsite reduces 75% of need to buy produce from other sources
- 540 lb of produce not transported across state and international lines
- Transport accounts for one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions (Source: The World Resource Institute’s Climate Data Explorer)
- In 2020 74% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector worldwide are from passenger cars (41%), medium and heavy trucks (22%) and shipping (11%), which are used to transport the produce we buy. (Source: https://www-statista-com. proxy.library.upenn.edu/statistics/1185535/transport-carbon-dioxide- emissions-breakdown/)
- $1 per person per meal saved
- 400 meals per month
- $2400 saved from June to November 2021
Final Construction Results and Number of Volunteers Between April and June 2021
- Two 14’ x 32’ Hoop Houses Built ~28 volunteers
- 31 Raised Beds Built~10 volunteers
- 10 cubic yards of soil shoveled and loaded in raised beds~10 volunteers
- Shade hoops for upper beds built~2 volunteers
5 Rows for Ground Row Planting~5 volunteers • Over 150 plants planted~5 volunteers
- Automatic irrigation system dug and installed to water all plants. ~5 volunteers
- 20-foot ramp built between upper and lower gardens~5 volunteers plus Ramp Project supervisors and 12 Youth Service Team volunteers
- Community Box: “Help Yourself” Box built: Free produce for the neighborhood
Benefit to Food Ministry June to December 2021
- Produce for 6 HopeWorks Dinners, 180 meals per dinner: 1080 people fed
- Produce for 12 Community of Hope Dinners, 80 meals per dinner: 960 people fed
- Produce for 3 Casa Esperanza dinners, 30 meals per dinner: 90 people fed
- Total people experiencing food insecurity fed: 2130
- Approximate savings: $2400.00
- 2-3 paid workers and 3 volunteer workers prepare each dinner
The mission of the St. John’s Community Garden is to:
o Follow the tenant of service expressed by John Wesley: ” Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, for as many you can, for as long as you can.”
o Provide a means for the St. John’s congregation to support the food ministry outreach to those suffering from food insecurity.
o Reduce carbon emissions from the transport of food by sourcing fresh produce from our own back yard.
o Encourage congregation and neighborhood (including Zuni Elementary School) in gardening skills and service opportunities.
o Have a mindset of gratitude and reciprocity for the earth and for the food that it gives us, and we can only feed ourselves and others through participation in that relationship. When our actions are in alignment with God’s will, we actively tend the soil and soul to feed those in need physically and spiritually
- Ways St. John’s Community Garden has inspired others:
o Other faith groups in Albuquerque have already toured St. John’s Garden to get inspiration for creating gardens at their own churches. We have given out the name of the Agricultural Specialist to several groups wanting to construct similar hoop houses.
o New Mexico Interfaith Hunger Coalition has made two videos about St. John’s Garden Ministry that have been posted and shared on Facebook and YouTube.
For more information contact tnuzum at stjohns-abq.org
Watch their beautiful videos of their garden ministry on their website: