We do much at Magdalene Serenity House that’s meant to nourish and heal the soul. Everything from our yoga and meditation, to art therapy and trauma group – even our personal financial management class – is crafted to encourage healing and create a path to independence. But none of our programming nourishes the soul in more ways, or quite as literally, than our community garden.
Like everything we’ve done this year, this garden is our first ever. Most of us didn’t know what we were doing, but we did know we wanted to grow from the experience of bringing the garden into existence and creating food from our labors in the soil. We also knew we needed help. Much, much help.
The brilliance of the Northwest Arkansas community is that there are so many knowledgeable people willing to help. First there was Katherine Barnhart, who curated a lovely binder of gardening wisdom from which we continue to glean knowledge and tips for best practices. It’s chock full of ideas we’re grateful to have at our fingertips.
Then came Tri Cycle Farms for the seeds, advice on plants, and guidance on prep work that needed to be done. Don Bennett and the Tri Cycle team’s input and encouragement kept us from thinking we were crazy for jumping in with both feet. I can safely say we wouldn’t have gone through with the garden at all if they hadn’t assured us any newbie could do it. We plotted the space, cleared it out, and plowed our way forward. Literally. Tri Cycle remains a source of information and encouragement as the garden grows and evolves.
And then there’s Feed Communities. Cat Swenson and Whitney Nelson arrived just in time to help us plant, irrigate and mulch, and do pretty much everything else we hadn’t already done. They dug down deep in the dirt with our volunteer coordinator, Liz Sims, and our intern, Alicia Widner, while we figured our way through this garden space we’d created. And somewhere along the way, they forged an alliance with one of our residents and empowered her to take control of the garden management. It was such a successful partnership that the resident even landed a job out of the encounter – one that fit her hopes and dreams to a “T”. She’s been learning and growing on the job ever since.
Much as she’s growing into her new job duties, so too does our garden grow in its new space. We just harvested our first vegetables and couldn’t be more pleased. It might seem a mundane thing to those with years of gardening skills under their belts, but for us it’s a small victory. We’ll take these small victories all day long, because it’s these small victories – and the community that helps make them happen – that makes healing at Magdalene Serenity House possible. For that, we are so grateful.