The ROCC Garden Club is a seasonal ministry designed to serve others by tending to a garden that will feed those in need. Volunteers work from April to November to plant, tend and harvest vegetables for the food pantry at Church Community Services. The ROCC Garden is 1 out of 10 gardens all over Elkhart and Goshen working to keep the food pantries stocked all year round. It is the desire of those who serve in this ministry to provide fresh produce for those who may not otherwise be able to afford them. Working in the garden is a great way to get to know other families who attend River Oaks. New this year, the KidsPatch garden is specifically designed to get families with younger children involved in this ministry opportunity.
The History Behind the Ministry
Did you know, 1 in 5 individuals living in Elkhart County are living in poverty; that is a family of four living on $25,500 or less per year. The need is great right here in our own community.
The idea for the garden began a few years ago when two individuals walked through Church Community Services food pantry and felt they could do more to stock the shelves with food and fresh produce. Both individuals were farmers and they began working on the Seed to Feed program with a mission to put food on the shelves in the pantry in the community they live in. The first year,2012, was a very hot and dry year. The program started with a 57 acre cash crop with corn and soy beans, a three acre potato field and 2 gardens. The profits from the cash crops were used to purchase food for the pantry. During their second year, the cash crop was increased to 70 acres, the potato field and 6 gardens. The ROCC garden produced over 13,300 pounds of fresh produce! During the third year, the Seed to Feed gardens expanded to a total of ten gardens in Elkhart County and the ROCC Garden hopes to exceed the weight of produce this year to over 20,000 pounds!
The cash crop program was fortunate to have the seed, fertilizer and labor donated and had a net profit of $50,000 to purchase food for the pantry during the winter months.
How Do Volunteers Serve in this Ministry?
Due to the late winter of 2013-2014, the ROCC Garden had a late start was planted about mid-May, about three weeks behind schedule. As of mid-June, the garden has already harvested 1,000 pounds of fresh produce including mustard greens, radishes, summer squash, zucchini, beets and turnips.
- 25-30 volunteers gather on Monday evenings in the ROCC Garden from 530-730pm planting, pulling weeds and harvesting the produce.
- 5-10 volunteers gather on Thursday mornings in the ROCC Garden from 830-1030am planting, pulling weeds and harvesting the produce.
Volunteers in the garden stated time spent with others in this ministry is building great friendships as they spend time together in the garden.
The KidsPatch is a great way to get kids involved with their families in giving back and learning how food grows. Parents and grandparents are working along side one another for those in need. The KidsPatch is full of garlic and colored green beans including blue and red beans!
The ROCC Garden currently needs more individuals willing to pull weeds and harvest the garden produce. More volunteers means more fun and less work. Volunteering in the garden does not require any experience, just a willing heart. There is always someone available to explain what needs done and what is ready to be picked.
The garden’s largest expenses this year was a solar fence and cattle panel to keep the animals from eating the produce. They can always use donations to help fund the program which allows more food to be purchased for the pantry.