Mary’s Garden

Published Aug 01, 2011

ALTA – Members of Sierra First Baptist Church in Alta are really digging deep for ways to reach out to their neighbors.

Alta residents Tina Hendrix and her husband, Danny, were desperate for fresh ideas on how to meet the nutritional demands of their daughter’s strictly organic diet. Pastor Scott Saunders of the small rural church asked if Tina would mind his sharing Mary’s need with the congregation.

Soon the dirt was flying. Literally. Right into the small-space gardening boxes Carol and Dan Dove have set up on their 50 acres near Cape Horn. The carefully planned out garden has been a community effort and is dedicated to help nourish 19-year-old Mary, who has severe Autism and, as a result, a compromised immune system.

The Doves brought the idea of a community garden to the congregation and volunteered to spearhead the project due to the location of their home and the availability of irrigation. When others in the community heard of the project there was an outpouring of support for Mary’s Garden and for her parents. Wood was donated for the boxes as well as plants and man-power to get the garden up and running.

“Plus,” continued Carol Dove, “we just found out that we are one of the recipients of a grant from the Placer Community Foundation, which will enable us to expand our dream of helping others by planting an orchard and other high yielding organic crops.”

Besides the actual gardening, there will be classes on-site on composting, basics in worm farming and how to plant potatoes, as well as classes on canning pickles and jams.

One of the issues the group has dealt with is the unseasonably late start on getting plants in the ground.

“The ground was still so wet and cold until the first of July,” Dove explained.

“We are thankful that this land is a blessing to others,” she said. Dove modeled the 12-square-foot garden boxes from the examples she had read about in Mel Bartholomew’s book, “Square Foot Gardening.”

While gardening isn’t a new concept for several members of Sierra First Baptist Church, being able to plant a community garden as an outreach is something they hope will not only reap a harvest of nutritional produce, but a place where people can connect with each other on an emotional and spiritual level as well.

“I spent a lot of time working together with my dad, who taught me the basics of gardening,” Dove said. “It was really a precious time when we talked about life issues during those times together. It is nice to see that this project will not only help Mary but also bring people together.”

Dove is also relying on the experience others in the community have had with this efficient method of gardening.

“We did an ‘adopt a box’ to help cover some of the expenses, and ended up adopting out 23 of the 34 boxes, now being planted with everything from zucchinis, tomatoes, and several varieties of potatoes.”

While the original goal was to aid the Hendrix family, the church is realizing that the benefits are far-reaching.

“Danny and I prayed about what kind of help we were going to need for Mary,” Tina Hendrix said. “We were also hoping that it wouldn’t just benefit her, but would be a blessing to others as well.

“That is exactly what is happening.

“There is just something so peaceful and therapeutic about tending a garden. It is exciting to see so many people involved. Knowing that Mary’s food is being grown locally is something I could not have even imagined. We are so thankful,” Hendrix said.

With a better awareness of the importance of a healthy diet, more people are turning toward organically grown produce and foods. The members of Sierra First Baptist Church hope Mary’s Garden will be a model for others who want to utilize their resources in reaching out to their communities.

“Mary loves it here,” said Hendrix, who recently took her to the sunny garden spot located near the Dove’s home.

“Just being able to see something that is growing and know that everyone here is benefiting from being together is a blessing.”