April 2, 2010: Community garden offers a hands-on approach to peace, by Veronica Barrington

The idea for the Community Garden of Hope grew from the Concordia Year of Peace initiative and is bound to be one of the most hands-on approaches to fostering peace.

It’s a simple, beautiful, and at the same time complex idea: A community garden can foster peace. It requires a group of people to come together, to share a goal, to make agreements, to accept one another’s ideas and abilities and to offer help as needed.  In the community garden, we must accept boundaries, follow rules and communicate.

In the garden, it doesn’t matter if you blossom with creativity or sprout practicality. Some will garden in patches, others in rows. There may be flowers mixed in with vegetables and fruits, or perhaps each will have its own precise place. And some gardeners will work hard, while others will putter.

One thing is sure: No two garden plots are alike.  And gardeners are quick to admire when they see something they like, and to offer advice when they see someone struggling.

We on the garden community hope that by creating a place and an opportunity for more Concordians to garden, we’ll be encouraging this exchange of admiration and advice — and, indirectly, promoting peace in the community.

For some people, the community garden may allow them to change the way they spend their “down time.” Rather than sitting home after a stressful day or week at work, there may be attractive benefits to picking up a bag of tools and going to the garden to spend a few pleasant evening or early morning hours caring for plants quietly and in peace.

With a new way to ease stress, maybe the causes of disagreements or grumbling at home or among neighbors will seem less important.

Then, once the ground begins to reward us for our care and attention, community gardeners will be able to share the bounty of the garden by having neighbors and friends over for a homegrown meal, passing along more good will.  Perhaps some gardeners will grow enough to can, freeze or dry for the winter, saving some of the family food budget and leading to more financial peace. Still others may wish to help others, by donating produce to some of our community’s other programs, like the senior center, the summer lunch program or the food bank.

Veteran gardeners know that all the work isn’t just about the crop; instead, it’s about becoming connected. First, as we become connected to the soil, we begin to see how robins linger around the gardens, waiting for grubs we might find, or to pounce on worms after we water. Then we connect to people by pointing out this wonder to young children, and sharing it with young and old alike.

People who experience moments like this can’t help but care about the earth and work to promote proper stewardship of the land, both in their actions and their votes.

With luck and commitment, the Community Garden of Hope will flourish, becoming a lasting tribute to a time when a few people in Concordia looked around, saw that actions and attitudes needed to change and planted the seed to make it happen.

— Veronica Barrington of Concordia is a member of the Community Garden of Hope Committee, a former Advanced Master Gardener and the mother of three. And she notes that plots in the Concordia Community Garden of Hope are still available, by calling Cecelia Thrash or Sister Betty Suther at 243-4428.

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