By: Grace Maguire
There are many ways we see communities coming together and helping one another, and within Chester, The Church of Messiah has been providing help from their garden. Starting back in 2010, reverend Margaret Otterburn and other church members were introduced to the idea of a community garden. The thought that they could grow their outreach to the community and help the people around them in a new and fresh way caused Otterburn and a church member, Frank, to create the garden that is still there today. “It’s just wonderful,” Otterburn spoke about the growth of the garden.
Between 2010 and the present, the garden had a growth spurt when a local boy scout was looking for a community beneficial project. He set to work on expanding the garden, and it is currently a plot of land of 15’ by 10’. Those feet are taken up by raised boxes and soil that green thumb, Community Gardener Frank created. Reverend Otterburn likes to say that “Frank was creative” when designing the garden and creating an efficient area to grow the most produce. Frank enjoys the work he puts into it, and Otterburn, along with the rest of the community, couldn’t be happier, “We all love that he does it,” She stated.
While the growing season may change each year, The Church of Messiah likes to stick between May and September to grow and donate their produce. The Church has its hands in many community gardens around the area of Chester, including the Chester Community Garden and others around the town. Though, in their own garden, they tend to stay with the same product each year. From cucumbers, herbs, squash, and “plenty of tomatoes,” Reverend Otterburn put it, there is always lots of produce to go around. Beans or cherry tomatoes may also be planted depending on the soil and weather. Reverend Otterburn and green thumb Frank like to try many options and different food choices.
The Church of Messiah makes sure that none of their produce is gone to waste, donating to local food pantries across the town. The Chester and Washington Township pantries are given their growth as well as Homeless Solutions and Roxbury Food Pantry. During the gardening season, Reverend Otterburn has a routine she likes to stick to when donating their produce, “I pick the produce on a Saturday, bless it on a Sunday, and one of our members takes it to the food pantry on Monday.” This routine ensures that the pantries are getting fresh and cared for produce for the community, and each batch has a special blessing from the Church itself.
While Community Gardener Frank and Reverend Otterburn handle many of the tasks within the garden, volunteers are always welcome. A pair of extra hands will never hurt between the Church of Messiah Community Garden and the other community gardens the church helps in. “There is plenty of opportunities if you like gardening and like helping,” Reverend Otterburn pitched. Many tasks like digging, cleaning up, and “a lot of weeding,” Reverend said. Each garden that the Church of Messiah tends to could always need some extra help, and Otterburn leaves that door open for anyone interested in volunteering in the growing months.