Volunteers establish Harvest Community Garden in Shell Knob
Founders invite community to ‘get hands dirty’ on grounds of Shell Knob church
With all the talk about the benefits of community gardens and fresh produce in society, a Shell Knob church decided to put their heads, hearts and backs into it, planting one to benefit their community.
Betty Ragland, one of Harvest Community Garden’s founders, shared how discussions sprouted into a one-acre garden at Central Community United Methodist Church on Highway YY.
“People talk about community gardens a lot, but I’ve rarely seen anyone start one,” Ragland said. “So, it was just about time. There was a discussion several years ago that we needed to feed our community better, and it was dropped for a couple of years, and brought up again this year. We did a survey in November to see if there was enough interest. I think it’s a wonderful idea because I help with handing out food from the pantry, so this summer, if we have fresh veggies, it will be a blessing for everybody.
The church has been home to a community food pantry through an alliance of churches for over 17 years, which also has USDA foods once a month.
The garden is just under an acre, with a community plot, and a limited number of tracts are available for residents to lease their own 4-by-12 space for $20 annually.
“The individual beds are almost completed and there are beds still available,” Ragland said. “This is an excellent opportunity for those who do not have space to take advantage of growing veggies and fruits for their table. We have room for 16 individual beds and three collective beds going in. Two areas will feature strawbale gardening. Another area has had 100 pounds of potatoes and onions planted.”
About 10 volunteers and gardeners, including some master gardeners, helped create the project, and will help maintain it, along with those who maintain individually-leased gardens.
Businesses are getting in on the project, too, donating supplies and services; others have donated funds.
“There have been a couple of memorials given to us to help buy the cinder blocks,” Ragland said. “So there have been several people helping along the way.”
Along with an abundant harvest of produce, volunteers have much more in mind for the garden, Ragland said.
“Our vision was to establish a place for people to produce a harvest of nutritional foods and to promote physical, mental and spiritual health through sustainable agricultural practices,” she said. “People who are gardening will take some home, and a portion will be given to our local pantry. If you want to help but don’t want an individual bed, this is the place for you to expand your knowledge, add fresh food to your table and contribute to a healthy community.”
“The garden is for the community,” said volunteer and gardener Jeannette Cassidy. “We’re hoping to do a couple of different things: give some produce to senior citizens, some to local outreaches, hoping to teach a few people to garden, and keep some for ourselves, too.”
Cassidy will be doing strawbale gardening.
“It’s a wonderful type of gardening, especially when you don’t have decent soil, and it’s great for older people because you only pull a weed or two, and don’t have to bend over or use a hoe,” she said. “You just plant, water and enjoy. It’s easy. It’s nice to go out and pick a tomato and say, ‘This is what I’m eating.’ Stone County is known for our stones, so there’s not a lot good garden dirt. So we’re trying to establish some raised beds to make it easier to garden.”
For more information, to contribute to the collective garden, or lease a tract, people may call Ragland at 417-846-6854 or the church at 417-858-6707 for a welcome packet, which is available at the church Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1-4 p.m.
Those interested in contributing monetary donations may do so by mailing contributions to the church office at P.O. Box 268, Shell Knob, MO 65747, and may receive a tax-deductible receipt. Current needs include electric fencing supplies, garden hoses and rain water storage supplies.
Harvest Community Garden volunteers would like to thank the following individuals and businesses that have contributed to the garden: Dave Fielder, Lakeshore Construction Co., for tree removal, ground leveling, hauling top soil and tilling; Jerry James, Table Rock Storage, for top soil; Ed and Roberta Gray for compost; Dennis Epperly for rabbit litter; Matt and Scott Cupps, Cupps Farms, for straw bales; and MFA Agriculture Service of Cassville, for fertilizer.