by Tori O’Dell
The resounding success of Harvel Community Garden’s first year (in 2020) has set the bar high for this season, but the garden continues to provide the community with fresh vegetables and opportunities to work together. Pastor Joe Nehring of Trinity Lutheran Church predicts the garden’s fall crops will produce until October.
The lush greens of the plants and their brightly colored ‘fruits’ quickly catch the eye of anyone walking past 426 North Monroe in Harvel. Only a year ago the rows of well-tended plants were an empty space in the village.
When a member of Trinity Lutheran donated the property to the church, Pastor Nehring quickly realized that this would be the perfect place to start a community garden – both to nurture the community and to give it to them. a place to come together in a common effort.
As a child, Nehring often helped his grandmother, Rena Tatum, with her garden. The benefits of a community garden were planted in his mind later, during his seminary training, when he discovered Gateway Green, a community garden organization in St. Louis, MO.
Community members from across the Panhandle area volunteer their time and expertise to maintain the garden, which has already seen several expansions in its second year.
âWe learn as we go. This year, we have enlarged the garden so that we can spread the tomato plants in the hope that we can walk between them this year, âsaid Pastor Nehring, with a warm smile. âWe also have more people helping out this year, so we’re making new friends and the work is going a lot faster. “
Pastor Nehring added that each year brings its challenges and blessings. The heavy rains this summer were a mixed blessing for the volunteers as they reduced the need to water the plants but gave the weeds a better chance to grow.
âThe warmer weather meant the product giveaways started a week earlier this year, but it took its toll on the plants,â Nehring said. âBut in all things, God continues to bless the Harvey Area Community Garden. The premium has been incredible and we never had to throw away the produce we harvest. He has always found a home.
The vegetable selection changes from week to week, but typically includes tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, purple peas, cucumbers, and a limited amount of peppers.
The team plans to have a second crop of green beans and okra to donate in the coming weeks. Planting of the fall crops began on August 18.
All products grown in the community garden are free of chemicals and pesticides. Next year, they plan to plant flowers among the vegetables to help fight the pests.
Volunteers meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening to harvest the vegetables. Community members are invited to pick up fresh produce from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday afternoon at 124 Main Street in Harvel, across from the Harvel Post Office.
Those who need vegetables during the week are invited to come and pick them carefully in the vegetable garden. Leftover products are donated to the Morrisonville-Palmer Food Pantry and the Panhandle Food Pantry in Raymond.
Nehring stressed that the use of the garden is not limited to residents of Harvey.
âThere are some misunderstandings. For example, we’ve heard that people outside of Harvel think the garden is right for Harvel and it’s not. So we changed the name slightly for the Harvey Area Community Garden, âexplained Nehring. âWe want everyone to enjoy the products we grow, no matter where they live. The only thing better than a fresh tomato on a BLT or a burger is a free fresh tomato.
Nehring said another misconception is that the product is only available to people who cannot afford fresh vegetables. He explained that although they donate products to local food banks, the products are intended for anyone who wants to benefit. While cash donations are accepted, products from the Harvey Community Garden are free to all.
âWith 2021 well underway, it’s hard to say if this year will be any better than 2020,â Nehring said. âWhatever happens, God continues to bless the garden with fruitfulness, and the team enjoys working together and providing free fresh vegetables to those in Harvel and surrounding areas.