Small garden in Hays, Kan., has a big mission

June 7, 2011 by

A volunteer helps install the 4-foot fence donated by the St. Joseph Knights of Columbus.

Alton Ashmore gingerly handles the tomato plants he donated for Saint Joseph's Garden in Hays, Kan.

HAYS, Kan. — Don’t mistake this unassuming patch of earth on Ash Street for so many other unloved neighborhood lots. This small patch — roughly the size of a smallish bedroom — has been tilled, composted, fenced, planted and now watered with tender loving care. And the fruits of its harvest will benefit the Parish Food Pantry of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

When Sister Janet LeDuc, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, moved into the Ash Street house last summer, she almost immediately realized that its yard would be the perfect place for a small community garden.

So in early March she mailed a letter to parishioners asking for their help. Donations of time and materials came in from both individuals and groups: The St. Joseph Knights of Columbus put up the simple 4-foot fence, Northwestern Printers donated a waterproof sign and others showed up to till, then re-till and add compost and new soil. Just after Easter Father Gilmary Tallman and Sister Janet gathered with several of the volunteers for a blessing of Saint Joseph’s Garden. And not long after that, Alton Ashmore arrived, tomato plants in hand.

Providing fresh produce to the Parish Food Pantry is just half the mission of the small garden, Sister Janet said. Her other hope is that the project builds a community of people interested in gardening as well as local self-sufficiency, sustainability and service to their neighbors.

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