Maryland Ministry’s Garden Offers Nourishment for Body and Soul
SALISBURY, Md — Many things come naturally at HALO Ministries.
In the last few years, hundreds of the homeless, the hurting and the hungry have come through these doors for a hot meal, a chance to go to school or shelter from the cold December winds.
There are GED classes, life skills classes, help with insurance issues, dentists, parenting and nutrition classes. Even a group of children with cancer come to HALO (Hope and Life Outreach) Ministries for help and hope.
So, many things come naturally for those who work here.
Gardening is not one of them.
Celeste Savage, the executive director of HALO Ministries, realized that there was a vacant, stone-filled empty lot nearby. “This is ridiculous. It is just sitting there,” she thought.
So, she asked the owner if they could use the empty lot.
“I don’t think he was prepared for what we did, but he said yes,” she said, laughing.
The result was the Harvest of Hope Garden, which produced 900 pounds of greens, strawberries and other food last summer to feed the hungry in the Halo Ministries Cafe, which served 54,000 meals in 2011.
The garden is a success story now.
But there was a rocky start by well-meaning people who could barely tell a pumpkin from a potato.
“We had a church that gave us some wooden pews, so I thought, Let’s make raised beds to grow vegetables,’ “ she said.
The pews were placed in the fields and filled with dirt and then planted with vegetables, prompting quite a sight for local drivers as they passed by the vacant lot.
“You rode by and you saw the church pews with tomatoes growing out of them,” she laughed. “It looked kind of neat.”
Pretty soon, the HALO staff realized that church pews weren’t going to last outdoors and they needed some real gardening beds. A Master Gardener came to the rescue.
So, the Harvest of Hope Garden was born with its own irrigation system and 18 raised beds.
It yielded greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and strawberries. Berry bushes were planted and hungry guests waiting in line should soon be able to pick a tasty morsel or two as they wait for services.
Not only that, but Savage said they are beginning an experiment to grow tilapia to provide fresh fish for guests of HALO. It’s only been in a few barrels (which can also be used for gardening), but the plans call for the fledgling fish farm to expand.
Savage said the Harvest of Hope Garden does more than just help feed those in need.
Savage said that working the soil can give guests time to reflect and meditate. She said it can be calming, but exciting because “guests” working in the garden can see the fruits of their labor.
“They come out of there kind of different,” she said.
The hope is that even more of HALO’s guests (all clients are called guests) will use their skills and time to continue to work in the garden.
The Harvest of Hope Garden was also an opportunity for those in need to see how the community responded to them.
“The community just stepped up to the plate. (It showed guests) that the community does care. They do have worth,” Savage said.
For more information about HALO Ministries, including how to help through prayer, donations or volunteering, visit www.haloministry.org.