John Arnold, a parishioner of the All Saints Catholic Parish and School, participates in the first planting ceremony of the church's new garden.
THE BLADE/ZACK CONKLE
A labor of love that will provide fresh produce to those in need in the community, while serving as an educational tool for students, was dedicated Sunday.
The Franciscan Garden, a 7,200-square-foot plot that has been cultivated next to the All Saints Catholic School, 630 Lime City Rd. in Rossford, is ready for spring planting. About 75 students, teachers, parents, and church parishioners worked on the plot this spring and summer.
"I got involved in the garden project to help the students learn about organic gardening, and to help teach them that food can come from the ground, not off the shelves of a grocery store," said Mark Bruning, a member of the garden team and the father of two children at All Saints Catholic School. "We at All Saints are blessed with a lot of land from which we can teach our children the value of earth and its many riches."
Mr. Bruning, along with other parishioners, approached the Rev. Kent Kaufman with the idea of a community garden on the school's property, which sits on 17 acres, just southwest of the parish church.
As the project progressed, organizers found that everyone they needed was right there to help — volunteers with backgrounds in landscaping, engineering, and business stepped forward, Father Kaufman said.
"We didn't have to look much beyond ourselves to construct this," he said. "When we put the word out to see who wanted to meet and talk about it to see if it could be a reality for us, some of the people who showed up were almost there with a rake and hoe ready to get started."
But the committee first had to come up with a plan and a name for the garden, so a mission statement was developed — one that spoke to the parish's Franciscan history, as well as to the goals of the garden.
Those goals include offering students earth literacy and stewardship through hands-on learning about planting, soil testing, cultivating.
"With the school being here, it was a great opportunity to utilize land, and the kids could get their hands dirty and learn everything from math to science to religion," said Rob Timbrook, a 20-year church member with two children at the school.
Mr. Timbrook said the group approached Jeff Eberly, the owner of Envirocare Lawn & Landscape, who donated a lot of equipment and time to the project.
Another big goal is to provide fresh produce for those in need — a goal that will start with a weekly offering to the local food pantry once the plants bear fruits and vegetables.
"We felt as we talked about it that this garden could benefit so many people," Father Kaufman said.
The name of the garden is centered around St. Francis and his love of nature, as well as the community's rich history with the Franciscan order of Sisters, who first came to Rossford in 1917, and has had more than 130 sisters serve the school and parish since, Father Kaufman said.
The garden also includes artwork by Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, an adjunct professor of art at Lourdes University, who is known for her ceramic tile mural work, and whose work is featured at the Main Street Bridge in Sylvania, the Bedford Branch Library, the Toledo Hospital Chapel, and the Lagrange Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Library.
Father Kaufman noted that when he went to New York last year, he visited with a neighborhood that had a community garden.
"It wasn't so much what they were growing in the garden, it was about getting together with the neighbors and gardening together," he said.
Contact Roberta Redfern at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6081.