Community Garden Helps Stake, Families Grow Together
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
Steady labor, a positive attitude, and faith in God can yield the sweetest of fruits. Such a harvest is being enjoyed by scores of folks from all backgrounds at the Provident Community Garden located in a suburban area of northern Las Vegas.
The members of the Las Vegas Nevada Sandstone Stake have played a major partnering role in the garden, which opened last month. Working with folks from the city’s business and religious community, the Sandstone stake has been pivotal in the garden’s development—and they’ve made several new friends along the way.
“We have truly seen the hand of the Lord through this garden,” said Paul Moffat, a member of the Sandstone stake high council who also serves as the president of the garden’s governing board.
In just over a month, the Provident Community Garden has become the city’s largest raised garden grow box community. The “gardeners” include dozens of member families and the mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn C. Goodman.
The recently completed first phase of the Provident Community Garden includes 90 10-feet by 4-feet (3m by 1m) garden boxes. Each box is cared for by individual families. Additionally, there are five 82-feet by 6-feet (25m by 2m) community boxes that are being cared for by a small army of volunteers.
In all, more than 500 people have participated in the first phase of the project, with additional phases being planned. The Provident Community Garden has been made possible through the generosity of business and private donors from the community—and plenty of volunteers who put in time each week to teach and work alongside novice gardeners from the Sandstone stake and their neighbors.
As he stood at the edge of a community box that framed meticulous rows of young corn, Brother Moffat spoke of the sacred benefits of the garden that stretch far beyond strawberries and tomatoes. For one, all participants are learning key principles of provident living. To be given a box of their own, families and individuals must pay a small fee and participate in three gardening and provident living courses taught at local LDS meetinghouses.
“It’s also a place for people to come together,” said Bobie Ellsworth, a member of the stake’s El Camino Ward, as she tended to her radishes and tomatillo plants.
Linda Schlauder is an admitted newcomer to gardening. But she has come to appreciate the lessons that can be learned working shoulder-to-shoulder with her family and friends. “We have already had family home evening lessons about the law of the harvest and about listening the counsel of the prophet,” she said.
Gardeners such as Sister Schlauder are also learning the lessons of delayed gratification as they plant and care for tiny seeds with the hope of a tasty reward that will come only after a season of labor and patience. “I love the feeling of families coming out to the garden together and seeing something grow ... and I can’t wait to taste our tomatoes,” she said.
Don Fabbi is a master gardener who puts in several hours each week teaching the gardening classes, answering questions, and sharing practical tips. Most of his relatives are Latter-day Saints. Mr. Fabbi is not. But the 84-year-old grandfather is a popular and familiar figure at the Provident Community Garden. “When you’re retired you want to have a reason to get up in the morning,” he said with a smile.
The community garden, he added, is teaching dozens of families about provident living and emergency preparedness even as they enjoy a crop of fresh produce. “And the social aspect of this garden is invaluable,” said Mr. Fabbi.
Local leaders from the Sandstone stake said the lessons being learned while laboring in the community garden are as meaningful as any they could share over the pulpit. As president of the stake Relief Society, Keri Lords said the garden has proven to be a blessing in the lives of many sisters “who have really been converted on a different level.”
Many women in the stake, she said, will share their bumper harvest with their neighbors and friends.
Gardening in this famously dry corner of southern Nevada is a new experience for many members here, said Monte Cristo Ward bishop Keith McDonald. Countless gospel principles, he said, can be taught when families come together and take ownership of a garden. “The scriptures are replete with examples of seeds and growing and nurturing.”
Las Vegas residents Mike and Kate Bailey, who are not LDS, are eagerly anticipating their harvest of the tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, squash, and onions that are shooting up in their garden box.
“But I’ve enjoyed the people here the most,” said Mrs. Bailey. “People are always stopping by and saying hello.”
Despite being raised “in the heart of Manhattan,” Mayor Goodman admitted to long harboring a secret desire to farm. Her wishes have been realized as she and her family have joined in the gardening effort. She has high praise for Brother Moffat and the others who have stepped forward to truly make the garden a “community garden.”
While navigating his wheelbarrow between a labyrinth of garden boxes, Harry Hoogland of the stake high council peered across rows of fertile gardens and grinned. People, he said, are growing and developing right alongside their delicate crops.
“I love the influence this garden is having on families,” he said. “We’re seeing families growing together.”