Trinity Episcopal Church helps feed community with garden

MUSCATINE, Iowa–When the Reverend Kevin Powell first came to Muscatine in September 2020, he found something unusual. In a small courtyard off the side of Trinity Episcopal Church, next to the Black Pearl Café, he saw a tomato growing among several hostas. Not placed there on purpose, Powell suspected that someone had simply discarded part of a tomato there and the seeds had taken root. These seeds inspired Powell. As he put it, “that spurred some imagination–could we do more?”

Together, Powell and about 10 other members of the church began planting a small vegetable garden in the little protected courtyard May 7. Member Paul Carroll built a special rack that will hold a container garden composed of 20 five gallon buckets. These buckets will hold plants such as leaf lettuce, onions, radishes, tomatoes, and peppers. In a garden bed near the containers, volunteer gardeners will grow several larger plants that do well on trellises, including cucumbers, green beans, and squash. Along with their vegetables, Trinity’s gardeners will also continue to tend a pollinator garden originally started by the church’s youth as well.

In the fall when the newly planted vegetables mature, Powell plans to put a message in the church’s blessings box (which provides non-perishable foods to anyone in need) letting people know they can get fresh vegetables too, just by going up to the garden and picking some for themselves. “I think one of the fun things we see is a lot of people walking by and using our blessings box, and we hope a lot of people will take advantage of this too,” said Joni Axel, one of the church members working on the garden project.

Along with providing fresh produce to people in the downtown area who could benefit from it, Trinity’s vegetable garden will also serve as a teaching tool for people interested in raising vegetables in container gardens of their own and those wanting to learn how to cook with in- season produce. Marcia Powell, Kevin Powell’s wife, shared that while planting the vegetable garden, she introduced several children to some basic gardening techniques, which she hoped would, “embolden kids,” to start thinking about themselves as gardeners and to possibly encourage them to try gardening at home.

Soon, she hopes to start adding easy recipes to the church’s website on their new community garden page. These recipes will help introduce beginning cooks to ways they can use fresh vegetables in their own dishes. It will also show people how they can grow and use some of their own food, which benefits the environment and helps reduce climate change.

As Trinity’s community garden takes root, everyone involved in the project hopes that it will promote connectedness in the community. “The idea behind this is that individuals will come and be inspired and share with others,” said Kevin Powell. “The more (produce) we can share, the more we can share with the community.” Moving forward, Trinity also welcomes other experienced community gardeners to come join them and share their expertise.