TWIN FALLS • Not everyone who grows vegetables in the Ascension Community Garden is a member of the church. But that’s the point and the fun of it all, said Betsy Wiesmore, organizer and Ascension Community Garden committee chair.
Two years ago, while at a state Episcopal convention, Wiesmore said the posed question, “What was the church doing to reach out to the community?” made her take action.
Wiesmore — a horticulturist — took it as the perfect opportunity to pursue her dream of starting a community garden.
With the backing of the Church of the Ascension, Wiesmore and a committee of six tilled a section of green lawn on church property for a community garden. The church’s property is also home to soccer fields, playground, labyrinth and green space that can be used for walking. All of which is open to the public.
“We (Church of the Ascension) own it all, but we don’t need it all,” Wiesmore said. “It’s a lot of lawn to mow.”
Last year, there were 11 plots in the back of the church. This year, there are 19 with plans to double the size of the garden next year. Wiesmore said there is already a waiting list of seven potential gardeners.
Gardeners include parishioners and several refugee families in the Magic Valley. Wiesmore said a large number of the refugee families growing food in the Ascension Community Garden utilize the garden because they live in apartments.
Findayihebra Charles, a refugee from Burundi, has maintained a plot in the community garden for two years. Last year, Charles shared several of the tomatoes he grew with other refugee families.
“It’s very helpful. We save some money,” Charles said.
Besides the opportunity to grow his own food, Charles said the act of planting, weeding and watering is beneficial to one’s health.
“In our country we used to grow vegetables. It’s very important for exercise and improving life. More people here are getting diabetes,” Charles said. “I’m very thankful for the
Bal Tamang, a refugee from Nepal, has lived in Twin Falls for three years. Tamang enjoys the ability to grow his own food.
“It’s easy to go there and walk,” Tamang said. “The people are very kind and helpful.”
For Wiesmore, being able to share a passion and knowledge of plants with others is rewarding.
“It’s in my blood. When I was a child I was always outside pulling weeds and mowing lawns,” she said. “I get emails and phone calls, ‘How much fertilizer do I use?’”
In the future, Wiesmore wants to host seminars on gardening and eventually start cooking classes. However, there are some things sprouting up in the community garden that she has never seen before. A number of refugees are growing mustard greens from seeds from their home countries.
The garden is full of a variety of plants from like lettuce, carrots and eggplants. The only plants gardeners are not allowed to grow are corn and vine plants. Corn would shade other crops and vines would invade neighoring plots.
“Gardeners bring their whole family and it’s a good use of our property,” Wiesmore said.
Paula Gooding, officer manager at the Church of the Ascension, cares for a garden plot with her seven grandchildren.
“We’ve had great fun,” Gooding said. “They helped plant it and were excited to see something come up. When you grow from seed you just hope something comes up, and some of our hopes came true.”
Gooding said sometimes interacting with other gardeners is hit or miss because people come all times of the day to weed and water. But Gooding said all the gardeners share one goal: to grow something.
Two organized get-togethers are scheduled during the beginning of the growing season and at the end so gardeners become aquainted.
A garden preparation get-together was held in early May and was well attended.
In October, gardeners will have another chance to gather, share stories and food when the Church of the Ascension will host the Second Annual Harvest Fest. Last year, 35 people attended.
“It’s a wonderful way to end the season,” Wiesmore said.