Plant sale helps grow a garden for community’s hungry


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Volunteers Kendall Sanderson, left, and Karen Shea are heading up the Blue Sky Community Garden at the Suntree United Methodist Church land to feed the hungry and attract butterflies and wildlife.

photo by Linda Wiggins

Karen Shea and Kendall Sanderson had long been connected spiritually. 

They just didn’t know it. 

Both members of Suntree United Methodist Church thought the time was right to create a community garden of vegetables and fruits to help those in need get better nutrition than the typical fare of nonperishable foods given through area food pantries. Once they connected, they decided to work together.

“We both work and are busy, but we thought this was something that really needed to be done,” Sanderson said.

The community came together to help launch the project, Blue Sky Community Garden, during a fundraiser plant sale and farmers market June 18 at the church. Proceeds from the event will help purchase a well, fencing and gardening supplies. More donations are needed.

Shea, an architectural designer, and Sanderson, an ecologist working in energy efficiency and water conservation, both have green thumbs and organic gardens at home. They will begin building the vegetable garden this summer, with a goal of planting seeds in the fall. The garden will be housed on part of the church campus that eventually will span 50 feet by 100 feet.

“All are welcome to join the garden. In fact, volunteers are needed,” Shea said. Church membership is not required. 

Produce raised in the vegetable garden will be shared among the volunteer gardeners and also donated to local soup kitchens and similar charities. Fruit trees will be added. Produce will be used for meals provided to homeless families who live at the church through the faith-based nonprofit Family Promise of Brevard, and also used for meals that are taken to Daily Bread soup kitchen and served up by a team of church volunteers.

The food will be used strategically. While the church has a food pantry, for example, it is not set up to handle perishable items, Sanderson said.

Sanderson and Shea have a vision beyond fresh produce. They will expand on a United Methodist Church initiative called Creation Care that evaluates and mitigates the impact of churches on the environment, with the goal of reducing water and energy use, streamlining waste, and recycling when possible, encouraging members to follow suit in their homes and businesses.

In addition, the duo will plant even more native plants around the church campus that already has a practice in place to remove Brazilian pepper trees and other invasive exotic plants. They will plant milkweed to feed monarch butterflies and likewise engineer plant species to house and feed wildlife and reduce the impact on their environment caused by development.