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USDA Helps Local Church Start an Urban Garden

A Davenport church will soon start growing fruit and vegetables, thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yesterday, the Third Missionary Baptist Church kicked off the project, part of a deal between the National Baptist Convention and the USDA.

The church members will enjoy a longer planting season because the garden will be in a large greenhouse called a "high tunnel," more commonly known as a "hoop building."

Pastor of Missionary Baptist, Rogers Kirk, is the Midwest Regional Vice President of the convention. "And what we're looking to do is to establish these high tunnels throughout the Midwest in many places, and really just try to get people to eat healthy, provide food for them, and provide some entrepreneurship, and things of that nature."Kirk also says many residents of the Quad Cities don't have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. And his church members plan to use the high tunnel to help them. "That's why we're reaching out not just in our churches but within this community here. This is poverty within this area. It falls within that guideline.  What better place to have one where people can come and get fresh vegetables. We can set it out for them. We can take it to the farmers market. You know, kids can help to be a part of working this."

At the kick-off, USDA Conservationist Shawn Dettmann told local pastors and others about how the agriculture department can help. "High tunnels are one of our most popular programs with new farmers or growers. It's very good for those who want to grow organic food as well."

Shawn Dettmann, USDA conservationist based in Fairfield, IA (left) and Pastor/USDA Liaison Samuel Thompson (right)
Credit Michelle O'Neill / WVIK News
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WVIK News
Shawn Dettmann, USDA conservationist based in Fairfield, IA (left) and Pastor/USDA Liaison Samuel Thompson (right)

Pastor Samuel Thompson from Mississippi is the Liaison from the National Baptist Convention to the USDA. He says the goal is to serve disadvantaged growers in both rural and urban areas. "Another benefit is teaching children how to work hard. I grew up doing chores, and we were never hungry. We had a big freezer, and my mom would can food. But with a high tunnel you can have fresh vegetables year-round."

Third Missionary Baptist already owns an empty lot on 13th Street in Davenport, less than a block from the church. Pastor Kirk says a contractor will build the $8,000 high tunnel by the end of September. More than 20 congregations in the Quad Cities area are eligible to receive funding from the USDA for high tunnels. And six or seven pastors attended the meeting to learn how to participate.

Four pictures of a high tunnel garden without the plastic covering
Credit Michelle O'Neill / WVIK News
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WVIK News
Pastor of Destiny Baptists Church of Christ, Donald Johnson, and his wife started their own high tunnel garden in Rock Island.

In addition, all churches belonging to the National Baptist Convention are eligible to apply for USDA grants and resources. Individual farmers and growers may also apply for help with high tunnel gardens. More information is available HERE.

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