Hopewell United Methodist Church has a Community Garden on Jenkins Road in Tyrone. The planting beds are tended by families in the community as well as church members. Two Master Gardeners, Sandy Golden and Tom Wilson, lead the gardeners and help them grow successful crops. They also use some of the beds to grow produce that can be shared by all.
Story by ELAINE PIERCE
Special to The Citizen — Above, Hopewell UMC member, Beth James, carefully fills jars with freshly made strawberry jam. The strawberries come from the Tyrone church’s garden and members and neighbors pitch in to can the harvest. Photo/Sandy Golden.
Three prolific beds of strawberries were brimming with fruit just waiting to be picked. People came and picked berries and the next day more needed to be picked. The strawberries were ripe and delicious, but production exceeded demand. Sandy Golden decided the gardeners needed to pitch in and do something about the situation. She organized a “Strawberry Jam Fest” for Saturday, May 19, and invited all the gardeners to participate.
They picked tubs of strawberries and washed, hulled, and stored them for the big day. On May 19, seven people gathered at the garden shed on Jenkins to make the strawberries into jam. It was the first “jam session” hosted by the Hopewell garden and preparation was key to the success of the project.
Johnny Wooten, husband of Libertad Wooten, constructed heavy wooden trivets to serve as a base for the gas burners and protect the tables beneath. Libertad is the Family Liaison Coordinator at Robert Burch Elementary, one of the three schools on Jenkins Road. Community participant and Master Gardener, Janet Lester, provided the expert knowledge on how to process the strawberries and make the jam.
The jam makers smashed berries, added lemon juice, pectin, and sugar and the berries cooked, bubbled and thickened until they achieved the proper consistency. Jars were prepared, jam was poured, and, when all was said and done, 35 beautiful jars of strawberry jam were ready for consumption. It was a labor-intensive project, but also a labor of love. The gardeners were able to experience how past generations of gardeners preserved the produce they grew so that nothing was wasted.
Hopewell will continue to host food preservation events at the garden to teach members of the community how to use the fruits and vegetables they grow. They plan to make bread and butter pickles from cucumbers this summer. Some of the Hispanic gardeners plan to teach how to make authentic salsa from tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, and herbs.
The Hopewell gardeners are always looking for ways the garden can help the community. Their next project is a joint venture with Sandy Creek High’s environmental studies classes. The students will meet in the fall and decide what to grow in an organic fruit orchard on the church grounds. They plan to grow fruit trees and may include blackberries, grapes, and figs.
This past school year the community garden served as a “living classroom” for members of the Culinary Arts program at Sandy Creek High. Class members visited the garden, monitored the growing process, and later harvested produce to use in their food preparation classes. In addition, special needs students helped pull weeds and tend to the garden as part of their learning program at the school.
In March, members of the community are invited to “adopt a bed” in the Hopewell garden for a 12-month period to grow produce. All of the 3’ x 12’ beds have been assigned for this year, but if you are interested in adopting one in the future, or if you have any other questions, please contact the church office at 770-306-7537. The church is located at 351 Jenkins Road directly across from Sandy Creek High.