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Church grows connections in Superior

Left to right, Don Johnson, Rev. Joel Certa-Werner and Superior High School senior Sierra Wilson build a raised garden box in the lot beside Faith United Methodist Church, 1531 Hughitt Ave., Friday. The church is seeking donations to build a community garden which will be available to neighbors as well as food pantry consumers. Maria Lockwood
Faith United Methodist Church is inviting the neighborhood to go green. A plan is underway to turn two empty lots beside the church into a community garden.
“We acquired this land so we could do a future building project,” said Rev. Joel Certa-Werner. “In the meanwhile, we wanted to do something that would help connect us to our community.”

Neighbors stopped by Friday as a pair of 12-foot by four-foot raised bed frames were fashioned out of donated lumber. One, Luci Dryke, literally jumped for joy.

“It’s like an answer to prayer,” she said.

It’s also Sierra Wilson’s senior project. The Superior High School senior is a Girl Scout and long-time gardener.

“I always had a garden when I was really little and thought this would be a fun experience,” said the 17-year-old.

She knows creating a community garden will be a lot of work, considering the project was recommended for two to four students.

“But I mean, I think I can do it,” she said with a smile. “‘Can do’ attitude.”

Her project mentor is Don Johnson, chairman of the church’s board of trustees. He hopes people who use the church’s food pantry will connect with the garden. Every Tuesday, Faith United Methodist Church distributes food to about 45 to 65 families.

“I’m sort of envisioning it as something to get the food pantry consumers more involved,” Johnson said. “Maybe they’d want to come out here and help in the gardens, too.”

Certa-Werner agreed.

“It would be a great way for those who come to the food pantry to see where food does come from,” he said.

For neighbors, it’s a chance to garden in an area with small, shady yards.

“We need a greener community,” Dryke said. “We need to get back to local farming. We need our citizens to be healthier, and I believe that growing our own produce is healthier for everyone.”

She hopes to grow salad fixings — tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots and onions — in one of the church’s garden boxes. Johnson said the finished garden will include about 40 raised beds of varying lengths.

There’s no directory listing local community gardens, although they’ve cropped up at schools, churches, town halls and businesses throughout Douglas County.

“I know there’s one at most parks,” Wilson said. “Some of them are not being used right now.”

Jane Anklam, horticulture and agriculture educator with UW-Extension, said community gardening in the area is robust.

“There’s been local food initiatives and community gardens are definitely a part of that desire to have fresh local food, not just farmer’s market, not just (community-supported agriculture),” she said. “That’s very important to our community.”

This isn’t Faith United Methodist Church’s first foray into gardening. For the last 15 years, residents of Harbor House Crisis Shelters, a ministry of the church, have been able to garden at the South Superior site.

This just extends the opportunity to a wider pool of people, Certa-Werner said. It can also brighten up the area by the church at 1531 Hughitt Ave.

“One of the goals of the city is to revitalize this community and I think this can help with that,” Johnson said.

Donations of materials and money are being sought for the project. H&H Lumber has already donated lumber and Campbell’s Lumber has promised to help, Johnson said. Wilson was tasked with drafting a letter to local businesses and communities to seek donations.

Johnson said they’d like to have all the material and funding for the first phase in place by the time the Wildfire youth ministry visits Superior in mid-July. The ministry group digs into projects in Douglas County every year.

The garden may not produce any tomatoes this year, but Johnson said there might be time for flowers or faster-growing crops to be planted.

For information or to donate, call Johnson at (715) 392-1357.