Volunteers from different faith communities have been working together to grow food. Columbia has more than 30 community garden plots, and several of them are interfaith gardens.
Monta Welch is the founder of a group called Interfaith Care for Creation, which has started an interfaith garden project in Columbia. The goal of the program is to educate different faith communities about environmental stewardship, she said.
“I know the faith communities have for a long time done a good job of, you know, caring for people in need, etc. but sometimes have lost sight of the connection to all of creation and how really it’s all an interdependent whole, and how with the proper appreciation, love, and respect for all of creation that each thing benefits the others.”
Through Welch's group, there are four garden sites total, including one at Broadway Christian Church and one at Rock Bridge Christian Church. The St. Thomas More Newman Center shares a garden with Congregation Beth Shalom, and Lily Chan is their coordinator. They grow all sorts of food, she said, including lettuce, spinach, radishes, mustard greens, turnips, beets, chard, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, onions, herbs, beans, peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, squash, garlic, strawberries, walnuts, blackberries, apples, and pears, rhubarb and asparagus.
The garden produced more than 1,700 pounds of food last year, and it was all donated to the food pantry. Volunteers work in the garden two or three times each week, and people of all ages help out.
“We have volunteers with 60 years of gardening experience as well as a 4-year-old volunteer – and he’s very enthusiastic," Chan said. "He’ll just water the plants, and he’s very short and he’s close to the plants, and it’s very good because you don’t want to be really tall and then splash it all over the place. And, he harvested and he’s just so full of energy; when everyone’s tired he’s still going.”
Working toward the common goal of helping the needy unites people of different faiths, Chan said.
“Well, I think that all religions have different beliefs, but they also have some common values," Chan said. "And, some of the common values is to help the poor, and to be good stewards of the earth that was given to us by our creator.”