As children were running around playing an assortment of games outside, Katie gazed at the adjacent community garden where she saw people of all ages maintaining their small plots of land with hopes of eating fresh vegetables at their dinner tables or proudly displaying colorful flowers at home.
It was a vision that required a lot of effort and teamwork from church members and community leaders, who all understood what a community garden would mean to the village of McFarland. It was also an accomplishment that fit in with MUCC’s tradition of unifying its talents to achieve a goal that benefits the community.
“I had a fantastic time, and it really inspired me to make some sort of changes in our community,” she said. “I thought it would be great for McFarland to have some sort of garden.”
After working with the McFarland schools and parks department on probable sites, Katie determined land adjacent to MUCC would be the best location.
“It was centrally located, by a sidewalk, close to schools and in the heart of the community,” she said.
In October 2012, after getting approval from the village board, Katie took her proposal to the church council. The goal was to make the garden available for planting in spring 2013.
“We just thought it would be a great opportunity for outreach within the community,” said Geoff Brink, the church moderator. “It was way for the church to do something not just for itself, but for the village of McFarland.”
“It was a lot of hard work, a lot of things had to be put into place in a short period of time, and we were starting from scratch,” Katie said. “It was a little overwhelming at first, but once it was all in place, we broke ground.”
“Geoff (Brink) has a background as an agronomist and was very helpful at answering questions from a technical perspective,” Katie said. “Gregg Krattiger, the building and grounds chair for MUCC, also got on board and was very helpful as far as laying things out, and what would work best for the church’s needs and our needs.”
Katie added that McFarland resident Bill Stoneman, a frequent visitor to certified organic farms, also provided a lot of his expertise. Village resident Ron Dennis helped till the garden.
“It picked up speed from there,” she said. “People from different areas of the community pitched in.”
“I didn’t know if we would get 10 gardeners or 70,” she said. “It turns we have more than 70. It’s gratifying to see the community really using it and enjoying it not just as a park, but also for a community meeting place. It’s been a beautiful thing seeing it all come together.”
“I haven’t visited the community garden yet, but visiting a garden always makes me feel good,” she said. “My family has created a flower garden at St. Mary’s so other residents can enjoy it. And they do.”
Ann sees nothing but positives in the development of the community garden.
“Congregants will be able to grow and eat their own vegetables,” she said. “People who don’t have garden space at home, such as renters, will be able to grow food and flowers. Maybe there’ll be surprising social aspects to the community garden.”
Katie said the garden is currently at maximum capacity. However, the garden committee may consider adding more plots in an area currently occupied by a pumpkin patch. There is also talk about putting up a small orchard of cherry trees near the cemetery, and designating some land for a youth gardening program.
“Your church is so fantastic,” Katie said. “I love those people over there so much. There has been a large commitment from church members that have put in a lot of hard work to keep this project going. I hope this has been a very inviting experience from the gardener’s perspective. I get the sense more people will become involved or at least, are interested in the UCC’s mission just from seeing the wonderful work that they do.”