Lake Christine Community Garden

Lake Christine Community Garden

Lake Christine Garden Work
Lake Christine Garden Team

Lake Christine Community Garden started as a dream for our Church. As a ministry team, we thought the idea of being part of a community garden would be a great idea, and a great way to minister to the people who live close to us. I was dreaming of how we could implement such a garden in the back lot of our previous church in Arkansas. We had about 3 to 4 acres we were doing nothing with and I wanted to utilize it somehow. I did not have a lot of interest inside the church, and before I could explore the options any further my wife and I decided to come to Belleville, IL in early 2021 to pastor the Belleville First Church of the Nazarene on Lebanon Avenue. Once we were here our thoughts for a community garden did not fade. It helped that the church here has a large open lot, as well. We did not press the matter, though. We waited a while to see where things went naturally.

As we got to know the people here and started to seek new ways in which we could minister to the community around us, my wife mentioned the idea of a community garden, without any notion from me, and the idea seemed to spark up quite a bit of interest in those involved in the discussions. Due to the effects of COVID on everything in life around this time, there were members in our congregation that we had not had a lot of opportunity to get to know very well.

Soon after this idea for the garden came up we learned that there was a gentleman in our congregation by the name of Craig Weiss, who was very into gardening and had even been involved in another community garden. We had heard that he was very into garden design and very detail oriented.  

By Spring of 2022 a couple of big things had happened. One big thing we are grateful for is our denominational district leadership, who are very supportive of our efforts and blessed us with a grant to help get the garden going. Without those funds it would have been much more difficult to get as much done as we have been able to in the last two years.

The other big thing is we had asked Craig to lead us in the effort to start our garden project (because we really knew nothing about gardening, but wanted to learn), and he gladly accepted. I remember there were several people who were disappointed that we were not able to make the garden functional by that Spring. At that point nobody realized just how much planning Craig was going to put into the project. I think there were some of us wondering why we couldn’t just till up some ground and put some seeds in it.

We were glad we waited for a plan, though. What Craig came to us with was nothing short of amazing. The detail he put into it is what I believe caused so many people to get on board. The map he created of what the garden would hopefully eventually be was more than I ever dreamed it would be. By summer we had a good idea of where we were headed and were trying to come up with cost efficient ways to build beds. We attempted a couple different designs and finally settled on what you see today. By Fall we had installed a row of 22 beds and had them ready to go for Spring of 2023. 

In the Spring of 203 we had an open house for the garden. This is where we met members of the Healthier Together team. “Healthier Together is a collective impact movement that seeks to transform the communities of St. Clair County, Illinois, by creating opportunities so all residents can experience a safer, healthier quality of life.” The Healthier Together team came to meet us to see if we would be interested in getting involved with their efforts to bring more gardens into the area. This seemed like a perfect way to connect and minister to our community.

Since our meeting, we have connected with opportunities to provide coupons for families at our local farmer’s markets and received support to participate in the University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardener Training class in the Fall of 2023. I am excited to see what opportunities this training brings. I am thankful I was able to take the class to help me as I work within the community in hopes to share how we can live Healthier Together in so many ways.

By Summer of 2023 we had every bed spoken for and something growing in all of them. By the end of Fall we installed another row of 22 beds and are looking for more gardeners or want-to-be gardeners to sign up for a bed or two or more. We are excited to see what this coming growing season brings.  

I may count this as a disclaimer or a hopeful postface, but there is one thing I want people to know. I was worried about it since the beginning and made aware throughout the last year that it is a real legitimate concern. We want people to know that our garden is a no-pressure and no-cost garden. We are here to serve our community and that is it. If something more comes of the relationships we form here, then that is just an added bonus. We are not doing this to force people to come to our church or to preach at them as they come out to the garden. We are not doing this to make money off of our property. The beds are free to use. We just ask that you sign up via our website and use only the beds you are assigned. We are here to provide a need for whoever may need it. If that is just somewhere to grow your garden, we are here for you. If it is food that you need, then our hope is to be able to provide that. We do hope to build relationships with those in our community, but we do not wish to pressure anyone in any way. May God bless you, your garden, and all that it feeds.

Pastor Beau Cotton

Lake Christine Garden Info

For more information on how you can get involved in the Lake Christine Community Garden located at 1901 Lebanon Avenue in Belleville, IL, please visit their website HERE. You can also request a free Garden Box by scrolling down and completing the fill-in form located in the REQUEST A GARDEN BOX section.