Small hands and strong arms

By Linda Schubert

Wordlessly, with grinning face and shuffling feet, the small hands of Elliot Mittelstaedt, presented me with $900.00.  That generous gift was the offering collected over three years by the church school children, who Elliot represented that July Sunday.  The children had chosen to designate their collection to the Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden at our small farm, tended by Sue Lovell and myself, assisted by my husband Art and a few others as they are able.

A month later many small church school hands came with their families to learn firsthand where the money would be used.  They got hands-on experience working a garden by sifting and spreading compost, picking cucumbers, pulling carrots, and re-building the first new raised bed box now named the Ladybug Bed. This you have seen on the youth bulletin board in the Parish Hall.

Raised beds provide advantages such as warming the soil sooner in spring.  Also, separating walkways from planting plots keeps the garden soil from becoming compacted by feet or heavy equipment.  And these beds can be converted with hoops and two coverings to extend the growing season.

Sue and I envisioned managing a ‘three season garden’ rather than just the typical summer one.  What does this mean for our pantry patrons?  Much longer access to fresh, nutritious, even organic produce.  Though so important to good health, these foods are costly and therefore often overlooked by those in challenging circumstances.

So now we stood in a good place with money in hand and the prototype built.  Yet seven more raised beds remained in disrepair.  I remember praying, “But now, what, Lord?”   Where are the workers going to come from – the strong arms to do the work? 

We didn’t know.

So, in faith we began our research.  Who carries boards made with food grade preservatives?  Do we use EMT or PVC hoops?  Which plastic sheeting lets in enough sunlight but is strong enough to support snow load?  The answers to these questions and more resulted in budget sheets and building plans.

The answer to our ‘strong arms question’ actually came through Sue Lovell. This fall, Sue was completing courses at Northwestern Michigan College, specifically Project Management.  The curriculum included small groups within the class developing a real project, putting into practice the theory they were learning.  Sue advocated for the Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden, convincing her group that ours was a worthy cause.

By the time demolition and re-building started the weather had soured.  But these ‘strong arms’ – four young men and Sue aided by Art and me – were determined to complete the work begun by the small and faithful hands of the children.

And those two double covered low tunnels named Monarch and Mantis?  When outside temperatures register 4 degrees, onions and lettuces are hibernating at 30 degrees.  Sunny days will raise temperatures even higher.

It’s working!

Rejoice with me that the strong arm of the Lord prevailed on behalf of the needy.


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