Roy and Bettye Lofton, members of Holy Spirit Parish, had the idea for a community garden to be developed on a plot of land owned by the Church and located at Catholic Social Services of West Alabama, 608 James I. Harrison, Jr. Parkway, Tuscaloosa. The Loftons shared their idea with others, including Deacon Fran Viselli, and together a small group brainstormed ideas and developed preliminary plans. Fr. Deasy assisted in planning and encouraged the group to invite others to join in the work. The James Schaetzle family volunteered (especially “Farmer” John, age 8) to plow the land to ready it for planting. Louie, a member of Holy Spirit, visits the garden every day to keep watch over the progress and report any problems.
Jeremiah’s Community Garden bears the name of the Old Testament Prophet who promised the people a New Covenant. Unlike the covenant that brought their forefathers out of the land of Egypt, the New Covenant was a promise to put God’s laws in their hearts and to be “their God and they shall be my people.” We chose the name Jeremiah for the garden to honor our beloved Pastor, Fr. JEREMIAH (Jerry) Deasy, who has taught us all by word and deed to live out the teachings of the New Covenant, to make fruitful the earth given to us by God, and to feed the hungry as commanded of Christians in Matthew 25.
The goals for the garden include utilizing the earth that God created to produce healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, and support the charitable work of feeding the hungry, thereby demonstrating the Church’s commitment to the common good. In carrying out these goals, the garden will also serve as an educational/work site for students at Holy Spirit High School, and will involve volunteers from the community at large.
So here is what the Holy Spirit, working through the people of God, has created over the past few weeks:
• A strong partnership has developed with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Mr. Neal Hargle has provided scientific/technical assistance through soil testing; identification of appropriate seeds and plants, laid out a plan for each planting; stationed bee hives around the perimeter where honey is already being produced. He has provided recommendations for cultivating and watering to assure growth.
• Volunteers have planted, watered, weeded and staked plants currently in the garden. If you visit, you will find two varieties of squash, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, corn, basil, and watermelons.
• The West Alabama Foodbank during the month of June has already received over 600 pounds of fresh vegetables. More variety is quickly coming on, including l00 tomato plants estimated to yield 60 to 80 pounds each.
• The project continues to develop new volunteers. Church members have donated tools, including two tillers; a variety of herb plants; $1,800.00 to purchase supplies and equipment. Local businesses are considering a new labor-saving watering system for the fall plantings, and purchasing a replacement for an old water pump. A local business donated 500 cement blocks that will be used for raised gardening.
• In the fall, new fruit trees will be added to the orchard currently consisting of four pecan trees. New plantings will include pomegranate, blueberries, grape vines, apples, pears, figs, and blackberries.
• Fall vegetable plantings will include kale, turnip greens, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, squash and pumpkins.
• Visitors to the garden have included: faculty/students from University of Alabama; Ala. Farm Bureau (ALFA), Students from Holy Spirit High School; Administrators from the West Alabama Food Bank; Sisters of Guadalupe.
• The City of Tuscaloosa has identified the garden as a potential site to be highlighted as one of Tuscaloosa’s creative contributions to the community when Alabama’s Bicentennial Celebration occurs in 2019.
Jeremiah’s Community Garden offers opportunities for volunteer service for those who have an interest. There are many ways for volunteers to participate. We also believe that creative ideas come from “new eyes”, so we welcome visitors and their contributions as well. Donations are also needed, including cash to purchase seeds and plants. The fall garden will include fruit trees as well as vegetables.
For volunteer, and for more information, contact:
Mrs. Bettye Lofton
Mr. Roy Lofton