Our garden provides fresh produce

A woman stands next to a garden.
Jacky Bramma at All Saints, Whitby’s community garden.
 on March 30, 2023

Jacky Bramma is a member of All Saints, Whitby.

I wear quite a few hats at All Saints. In worship, I am an intercessor and a chalice bearer and assist in music ministry at our “relaxed” informal service, as well as being a bell ringer. My passion is Christian education, and I enjoy working with a team of lay and clergy folk to plan and prepare events and study courses throughout the year. I am also privileged to lead a small group bible study on Zoom each week.

I volunteer at the All Saints food bank, which operates on Tuesdays and Fridays, and has grown enormously over the past few years to meet the growing needs of our community. I am a founding member of our community garden, and besides hands-on work, I coordinate the volunteers’ schedule.

Our community garden provides fresh produce for our food bank, The Deacon’s Cupboard, and was first dreamed of about five years ago. It only became possible when a fenced, grassy area on the east side of our lot became available in 2021. It had previously been used as a play area for a Montessori school, located in the church basement, which closed. A $5,000 Reach grant from the diocese and a $500 deanery grant finally allowed this vision to become a reality, enabling the purchase of materials.

An enthusiastic group of parishioners drew up plans for six raised beds and some ground-level planting. My daughter, (now the Rev.) Claire Bramma, was a seminarian intern at All Saints for three months that summer, with the garden being her main responsibility, so I jumped at the opportunity to work together. Our volunteer team (approximately 20 in total) included both “expert” gardeners and “labourers.” Since COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, we had to follow strict protocols when working with others, even outside, and at times it was uncomfortably warm working in masks.

Once the beds and boxes were ready, planting began. In addition to sowing seeds directly into the soil, volunteers donated seedlings started at home. In one corner of the lot, we created the Three Sisters Garden, as a tribute to the Indigenous companion planting method. Corn was planted, next came beans which used the cornstalks as support, and finally squash with their lush protective leaves. The story of the Three Sisters was shared with the congregation one Sunday, along with the planting of tobacco by two Indigenous members.

That first year was something of an experiment, dealing with unpredictable weather and soil conditions and battling with squirrels, rabbits and other pests. We were also rather late in planting but were nevertheless able to supply our food bank clients with a variety of herbs, sweet and hot peppers, zucchini, squash, lettuce and tomatoes… lots of tomatoes! Everything was received with enthusiasm.

Last year we added two new raised boxes and two tower planters. Armed with the knowledge gained from the previous year, we were able to increase our yield and variety of produce, especially beans and lettuce. We demonstrate good stewardship of the earth by using compost instead of chemical fertilizers, and using water from the rain barrels for the plants. The theme of last year’s Vacation Bible School was God’s Work in Creation, and a visit to the garden provided an opportunity for the children to see this in action.

In addition to the obvious benefits of producing food, the garden has been a blessing in other ways by providing opportunities to connect with others. During a time of strict COVID-19 restrictions in the first year, when so many of us were starved of human interaction, it became an opportunity for volunteers to be in fellowship with each other outdoors. The garden is in plain sight of a residential street, making our presence felt in the wider community. Passersby would frequently stop and ask about the project. On food bank days, the garden was a great source of excitement and conversation among the clients as they waited for their orders to be filled. Last year when a friend and I were watering the garden, a woman came by and asked if the church might be able to give her and her son a bible. We were able to do that and invite her to our “Welcome Back” service the following Sunday!

One of the biggest challenges in maintaining the garden is ensuring that we have enough volunteers, especially in an aging congregation. This year we are looking at ways to increase our pool of volunteers, and we are hoping to encourage families to take a turn after worship on a Sunday.

I first came to All Saints 21 years ago, following a spiritual rebirth. Growing up in England, where the Church of England was the norm, I was “Christian-ish” until a series of events brought my faith to life. One of these was being present at the baptism of our daughter, Claire, when she was a student at RMC. Her faith and testimony were transformational steps on my journey. When my husband, Peter, died in 2007, I could not imagine dealing with such grief without God’s love. Peter loved gardening, so being part of the community garden is also a tribute to his memory.

I don’t have a five-year plan. I would simply love to continue to serve whenever opportunities arise.

One favourite passage from scripture… that’s a tough one since there are so many, but I have grown to love the Psalms. Psalm 147, verses 1-5, give great comfort:

Praise the Lord.
How Good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.


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