Jack Michels picks the latest bounty from the Resurrection Parish garden. The garden ministry has donated 450 pounds of food so far this year. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Jack Michels picks the latest bounty from the Resurrection Parish garden. The garden ministry has donated 450 pounds of food so far this year. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

TUALATIN — As spring flowers bloomed and pollen floated through the air, Resurrection Parish welcomed a new growing season for its garden ministry.

Thirteen parishioners participate in the ministry, which contributed 450 pounds of food to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry as of Aug. 24.

“There’s been more of a need because of the pandemic; families are hurting,” said Jack Michels, who runs the ministry.

“It makes me feel good that I can contribute to the needy,” Michels said, adding that he enjoys gardening anyway.

The primary mission of the ministry is to grow vegetables for the local food bank, though the gardeners also attend to the roses and weeding needs around the church. A dozen garden beds are dedicated to growing food for the food bank, while seven are for parishioners to grow their own produce. Many of those growers contribute to the food bank as well.

The ministry began in 2013. As in most parishes, there was space on the grounds for raised garden beds. The project received funding and volunteers helped clear out the space and build the 19 beds. Each is 10-by-4 feet, is filled with 8 inches of good soil and is equipped with a drip irrigation system.

Erin Normile, a parishioner at Resurrection, is nearing the end of her second season with a plot here.

“I felt like a rookie last year,” said Normile, who added that she was grateful to have a place to grow healthy food for her family. Then she realized she had the opportunity to donate some of her produce to the pantry.

“It’s cool to be part of a wider community of gardeners helping others,” she said.

The parish partners with Nourishing Neighbors, an organization that provides seeds and starter plants with the expectation that a portion of produce grown from them would be donated to a food bank.

“There’s so much bounty in growing plants from one little seed,” said Normile, pointing out just how many people have been involved with the ministry over the years.

“It’s given me a wonderful perspective on how if everyone does a little, it cumulatively comes together.”

Normile hopes the people who receive the parish-grown vegetables will know that others are thinking of them.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry implemented new rules. Gardeners are required to social distance and wear masks while gardening, and tools are not shared.

“It’s been wonderful during the pandemic,” said Michels.

He’s been able to get out to the garden nearly every day. It’s nice to be in the “fresh air and sunshine surrounded by all of the healthy fruits and vegetables growing.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org