Garden of Grace sees a growing need

Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 1:20 AM EDT
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BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A church in Botetourt County is pulling baskets of produce from its community garden in hopes of filling the plates of its neighbors in need.

“Funny as this may sound, I think we would like to extinguish hunger one tomato at a time or one squash at a time,” Pastor Chuck Miller said.

Miller is the pastor at Wheatland Evangelical Lutheran Church. He started building a Garden of Grace about six years ago, and while he is proud of this growing produce, he is concerned about the growing need.

“We just had a Fresh Food Farmers’ Market last Friday and had an upwards of around 200 people,” Miller said.

That is double the turnout at the same market last year where fresh produce and other shelf-stable items are available.

“Multiple people tell me when they come through the line on Fridays here, is that they come here first before they even go to the grocery store so they can figure out how far the amount of money they have to spend on groceries for family will go,” Miller said.

It’s a community effort to tend to the plants with volunteers like Jenna Bill, and partners like Martins Farm, Virginia Tech, Feeding Southwest Virginia and other organizations.

“It can be really expensive, especially to get fresh produce and we have it right here, it’s available. It’s not shipped across the country. It’s grown in your backyard,” Bill said.

She said it’s a safety net people can fall into; the hardest part is just letting people now it’s here to catch them.

“I mean we will do anything we can to help somebody, even drive out all the way to Smith Mountain Lake if we have to or even farther,” Bill said.

“Our thought process is, we are going to give it, until it’s gone,” Miller said.

Last year the Fresh Food Farmers’ Market was offered every Friday. This year with changes to federal programs the program is available at different times. To keep up with the market you can visit the church’s website or Facebook page.

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