2015-06-11 / From The Garden

How to Nourish a Community

By Cynthia Gibson


Bob Gessler, left, is joined by fellow gardeners picking vegetables in last year’s garden at St. Mary’s Church. Bob Gessler, left, is joined by fellow gardeners picking vegetables in last year’s garden at St. Mary’s Church. With its sights set on a goal of more than 1,000 pounds of fresh food grown and delivered, the team at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth is filled with enthusiasm and they'll need to be. For those of us who know a bit about vegetable growing, that is one heck of a lot of produce.

The St. Mary’s community garden, established in 2012, relies on the efforts of parishioners and friends to raise fresh vegetables for area food banks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Lucy’s Hearth, and the Salvation Army to help combat hunger on Aquidneck Island. Cutting flowers are also grown for use by St. Mary’s Pastoral Care Commission. Last year, the garden contributed a total of 607 pounds of fresh produce to food banks and another 222 pounds were added from home gardens,” said Anne Stone, director of communications.

Bob Gessler and Debby Timby have been with the community garden from the get-go. Because of their dedication and that of others, the garden has grown to onequarter acre and is still growing.

Elise LaParle Garcia, a gardenstalwart, tells us, “The gifts from the garden far exceed just gardening; we produce food and beauty for the St. Mary’s community and the community surrounding all of our lives.”

Gardens do not plant nor weed themselves and are always in need of more hands. Members of Boy Scout Troop 82 and students from Roger Williams University have volunteered their labor and Rhode Island Nurseries has tilled the soil, but all kinds of help is appreciated, whether weeding, donating plants, or providing the occasional hose and new nozzle.

The children of the parish helped to make the plant markers this year and are learning how to weed. The latter might not sound important but to a gardener that is great news. Knowing the difference between a plant you want to keep and a weed makes life in the garden so much easier. Another whimsical touch is the scarecrow, courtesy of the women who run St. Mary’s thrift shop.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. This year tomatoes, potatoes, onions, peppers, Swiss chard, broccoli, asparagus, sweet peas, sunflowers, gourds, pumpkins, and more will be grown in the garden. Parishioners and friends of the garden drop off excess plants from their own gardens to add to the current plantings at the church plot.

If you want to be part of a community, this garden is a great place to start. Try to make a little time to help them weed or water. If you cannot volunteer, at least stop by to see the garden; it changes weekly. Come fall, they will also need help with harvesting all of the beautiful vegetables.

To learn more, call 401-846-9700, x 102 or visit smcportsmouth.org.

Return to top