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Oakwood church’s new garden project aims to sow seeds of community
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McEver Road United Methodist Church members Richard Baker, right, and John Wright till the soil for garden plots Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at the church where a new community garden is located. - photo by Scott Rogers

The four men in the garden were not members of a gardening club or even particularly skilled at landscaping. But, they have spent nearly a year preparing a 1-acre plot of land near their church for anyone and everyone to plant seeds, literally and figuratively.

Community Garden

What: 1 acre of gardening beds and tilled soil for community use 

Where: McEver Road United Methodist Church, 5226 McEver Road, Oakwood

More info:

Richard Baker, Rick Brown, Mike Stewart and John Wright, all longtime parishioners at McEver Road United Methodist Church in Oakwood, all wore caps on their heads to block the morning’s sun while they worked the ground. 

Along with Debbie Phillips and Jim Prezel, the crew behind the church’s community garden project has worked to bring the idea to life day in and day out, “piece by piece,” said Tyler Jackson, the church’s lead pastor since July 2022. 

“(There) are always little things they are working on,” he said.

Many congregants have contributed to the project, according to Jackson, but the core group has been “dedicated” to the idea of having a community gathering spot from the very beginning. 

“It’s been a whole congregation that has played a part in this project,” said Wright, who has been a member of McEver Road United Methodist Church for 30 years. “It’s going to be fulfilling when people start coming here and start gardening. It’s going to be amazing.”

The project, a community garden on the grounds of the church’s 10-acre campus, will allow for people to sign inexpensive year-long leases in order to have a place to grow things like vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.

The prices are designed to help sustain the garden, with all funds going toward the project, not the church, according to Jackson, who said he often hears from people about whether or not they can plant everything from blueberry bushes and rose bushes to apple and fig trees. 

“This is our first rodeo and we are just figuring out the kinks,” Jackson said. “This is both a community and a garden.”

The leases range from $25 to $75 for the year. For those who want their plot tilled, there is a $15 fee for twice-yearly ground work in preparation for the best times of the year to plant in Georgia. 

Applications are open to congregants and community members alike at

Along with the plots for lease, there are plans to have plots for local high schools and middle schools to work on, a pollination garden for flower growth, a compost plot, a plot specifically for vegetables and fruit to be donated to local food pantries and other churches and space earmarked for future plots. There will also be a ramp built at the entrance of the garden for wheelchair accessibility. 

“We want to provide a respite, a little sanctuary for people to congregate and enjoy themselves,” Stewart, a 34-year parishioner at McEver Road United Methodist Church, added. 

Brown calls the garden “a place for people to get away from it all,” while Baker said, “We are a church that realizes if we are going to continue to witness to this community, we need to be together with the community in many different ways.” 

The group, including Phillips and Prezel, are all retired and have found a new way to remain busy while continuing to gather for a good cause.  

“I have gained much more from this project than I’ve given,” Wright said. 

“Hopefully people come out and they are excited about the project,” Jackson, a husband and father of three, said. “It’s really starting to feel like a collaborative effort.”

He and his family have purchased a plot, and he said his kids are looking forward to “playing in the dirt soon.”

“We are invested in the garden, too, not just as a pastor, but as a family in the community,” Jackson said.

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Members of McEver Road United Methodist Church prepare a community garden Wednesday, March 8, 2023, on the church property with a few raised garden beds and a shed. - photo by Scott Rogers