FORT WAYNE — There’s an old garden proverb that says it best, “More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” This proverb was mentioned in the Summer 2011 Global Garden newsletter published by Holly Chaille, director of the Catherine Kasper Place.
Chaille went on to detail numbers from the “big dig event” held in June at Autumn Woods Apartments.
“While there certainly are quantitative results — 78 kitchen gardens, 22 plant stands, 600 veggies and 120 volunteers assisting more than 400 people — it is the qualitative outcomes that I will remember. We weeded out some language barriers, cultivated the spirit of community, dug deep within our souls and harvested a new crop of friends,” said Chaille.
The Autumn Woods Apartment site is just one of the many garden sites in the Fort Wayne area along with one in New Haven, a large farm lab in southeast Fort Wayne and at Catherine Kasper Place on Calhoun Street.
Catherine Kasper Place, located on South Calhoun Street in Fort Wayne, is a ministry sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ who are inspired by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and their foundress, Blessed Catherine Kasper to listen prayerfully, live simply and serve joyfully. The center serves as a resource for refugees by assisting them with successful integration into communities in northeast Indiana. It offers programs designed to help new arrivals live on their own by providing various services and educational programs.
Just before Memorial Day, Chaille sent out an urgent message to area farmers begging for help with a critical piece of her Fresh Food Initiative. Burmese refugees, who are resettled in the Fort Wayne area by Catholic Charities, were under the gun to get their vegetable plants in the ground for the 2011 growing season but Mother Nature was not cooperating.
“We were in the middle of horrendous showers and more rain was predicted for the next several days,” Chaille recalls. St. Louis Besancon parishioner and lifetime farmer Mick Lomont responded by offering a one-acre parcel of land on a farm just west of the church to the refugees. A grateful Chaille explains, “Without Lomont’s participation we would be struggling to meet our goals of helping the refugees farm at such a large scale.”
Bernadette and Elie Laurent are farmers from Haiti growing their crops on the plot. The Laurents were victims of the recent earthquake, which destroyed all of their farm land in their native country and took the lives of their two children. Ngar Myint is one of the Burmese participants. At the New Haven location, Myint has planted popular Burma vegetables such as roselle, taro, gourd, long bean and corn.
During the month of June, the farmers also attended a marketing session to teach them how to select and present their produce on a table. With no driver license and little knowledge of the English language, it is very difficult for the refugees to become professional vendors.
The Purdue extension agent also taught the farmers about market pricing, selling at the grocery stores to make a profit. The lecture described the main goal as bringing home money, not produce and how to sell in discount when necessary.
Garden coordinator, Taing Taw, also reports in the newsletter that seven CKP clients who are growing food for their family and market have received long hours, a lot of sweat and muscle and open arms from Paul Gerardot and his brother, Dan at St. Henry Church. While jobless and attending ESL classes, five women and two men spend countless hours in the beautiful gardens along Paulding Road.
“I have always loved gardening and am enjoying this. It is really nice to see how God is working through us to use this space. It is exciting to have so many people and so much activity in the neighborhood,” explains Gerardot. In his own personal journey over the past year, Gerardot recently prayed, “Lord, use me as your hands and feet to do your work” and once again Chaille is more than thankful for another special blessing to the project. “I can not count the times I shake someone’s hand and tell them we could not have done this without them,” she finishes.
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