Community Outreach

Adventist Garden
Helps Church Pantry Grow

By Edith Decker of the Daily Courier
Published 7/30/09 in the Grants Pass, Ore. Daily Courier on page A8

Craig McCann, a local builder, has had some time on his hands this past year, thanks to the recession. But he's used that time to plan and build, it's about halfway done so far, an enormous community garden.

North Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in Merlin owns about five acres of land, so McCann talked with fellow church members, along with Pastor John Witcombe, and they've set aside a large garden with a deer fence and growing vegetables and fruits for those in need.

"This used to look like that forest right there," says McCann. "It was all trees and heavy brush."

He pulls out his original design for the garden, which includes a gazebo, a shady picnic area, a glass house for starting plants and a good sized cold-frame style greenhouse. Oh yes, and a whopping 80 raised beds, each 14 feet long and 4 feet wide.

That's a lot of broccoli. (Or spinach, beans, peas, squash...)

The greenhouse and 40 of the raised beds are done, along with several flower beds. "The ground was not very good," he says, noting that they used some of the many rocks they pulled from the soil to define the bright flower beds.

The soil condition brought in the raised bed idea. Eventually, the garden will produce its own compost and that will be turned back into the soil. The first of the compost is on a few lush beds at the far side of the garden. But so far, all the spring crops of greens and peas and most of the summer crops of beans, squash, tomatoes and the like, are planted in plain soil in this organic garden. "We're amending as we go," McCann says.

McCann also is saving seeds. He's planting heirloom varieties that will provide seeds for future gardens so his outlay of $200 for seeds to begin the garden will last and last.

Money was donated by church members, to be sure, but they also received a $3,000 special grant from the Oregon Adventist Conference for the project. Every dollar is appreciated, even though the garden will be efficient, with its own seeds, compost and volunteer labor. Still, the impressive deer fence alone was about $2,000 and supplies for the irrigation system about $1,000, McCann notes.

Taking care of such a large garden is no easy task. Although it is easier now that the irrigation system is in, McCann says. He stops by every morning, but says it's a group of volunteers who really keep everything going. He credits Mike Johnson, for instance, with much of the carpentry work for the raised beds.

The garden is part of the Plant-A-Row program and supplies food for those in need at the church, and also through the church's charitable arm, the Dorcas Society. Those who volunteer, also are given produce in exchange for their efforts.

For the moment, McCann is starting seeds at his own heated greenhouse, then bringing starts to the unheated greenhouse at the garden to mature before planting.

Eventually, he says he'll build a classic glass house at the foot of the garden.

"We've grown just about everything," he says, noting that the kohlrabi crop was particularly popular. "People see this stuff and say, 'What is that?' And I say, 'Take it home and try it.' They see there's other vegetables than what's at Safeway."

He wants to try a few exotic plants for fun and has visions of a series of rose bushes at the ends of the central beds, has morning glory planted to climb the deer fence and hanging baskets set to go up on an arbor eventually. He wants the space to be beautiful and useful for the congregation as well as supplying needed food.


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Reach reporter Edith Decker at 541-474-3724 or