Bill Hanawalt and his wife, Kathy, grow more tomatoes than they could ever eat. Kathy dreamed of starting up a farmers market like others in their Tacoma, Washington, community, but she couldn’t devote enough time to launching such a project.
One day, the Hanawalts and a neighborhood master gardener, Steve Appling, were talking about this, and a smaller-scale version of a farmer’s market was born: a garden table.Every Sunday morning at Peace Lutheran Church, Appling and fellow master gardener, Sally Perkins, sit at a table outside the sanctuary. There they offer advice about and encouragement in starting gardens at members’ homes. They suggest when to plant certain plants, what one should plant first, how to water plants, and they also discuss which plants survive in certain temperatures. Later in the growing season, people bring in extra produce and share with others.
Peace Community Center, incorporated in 1996 and where Bill Hanawalt is Executive Director, is a social ministry organization run by Peace Lutheran that is committed to empowering Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood children, youth, and young adults to reach their God-given potential. Children and families play a large role in the success of the garden table and community gardening.
“The other thing that happened [because of the garden table] was that people started coming to the table and sharing a lot of ‘starts,’ parts of plants people take home to plant their own tomatoes, etc.,” says Hanawalt. “This year, our master gardeners provided a bunch of starts themselves…things like squashes, spices, some flowers, trees, and more.”“We’re encouraging people to garden at home and to come participate at the community center or seek help in setting up and getting a garden going,” says Hanawalt. “The idea is that in any urban area, you have very little green space. So the community gardens make sense. Here, even low-income people have a yard, so there’s a real opportunity for people to step out of their house and garden.”
Lutheran Community Services Northwest is a social ministry organization of the ELCA.