Skip to main content

An extensive ministry of CSM and a strategy of community development is our garden ministry. Gardening allows for people to experience God’s creation, learn about the process of growing food, become healthier individuals, and even empowers those living in food deserts to grow their own food! Although we have an on-campus garden, much of our efforts are focused on our partner gardens around the city. One of these is the Lovelady Center garden. Our Master Gardener and Nutritionist, Allie, taught at The Lovelady Center alongside other Master Gardeners in a six-week gardening class.
The Lovelady Center is one of CSM’s longtime partners doing incredible things for women in Birmingham. We recently had the chance to join their endeavors by teaching the Center’s residents, the Loveladies, gardening basics. The Lovelady Center focuses on “empowering women, through faith-based initiatives so that they can return to society as well-equipped women of God. The program is about empowerment, hope, and a belief in the value of every human life.” The Lovelady focuses on educating and equipping women to live fully self-sustained and beautiful lives. The Lovelady claims, “It is our mission to help women rebuild their lives and walk forward with faith-driven hope for the future as a contributing member of our community. The Lovelady program ensures each woman learns how to overcome barriers to success by providing access to needed services.”
One aspect of the educational program is encouraging women to get back to the earth and experience a relaxing and empowering activity like gardening. The Center has a large raised bed garden on its rooftop and parking deck that was started a few years ago and has since been cared for by residents. This gardening class exposed the Loveladies to gardening basics, the beauty of God’s creation, and how growing food is exciting and vital to a healthy community. The rooftop garden will grow and has grown food for the residents to eat farm to table!
Allie exposed the Loveladies to CSM’s garden center within the class, including the hydroponics greenhouses, providing them with creative ways to grow food, especially in a city setting. She also taught on the importance of healthy soil and plant nutrition that impacts our health. The women heard from Allie and other Master Gardeners the importance of tending to our bodies just like we tend to the earth and then discussed how nourishing foods come from the ground and God himself. We all need reminders of the daily nourishment the Lord provides for us and how our bodies are made to serve and bring Him glory- which we can do by treating them kindly and fueling them in the right way.
For many in Birmingham, eating healthy is not always an option, and many at the Lovelady Center have experienced the ache of food insecurity. In 2019, 69% of Birmingham city residents lived in a food desert; that means 150,000 people lived and are living without access to fresh foods like meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables and depending on corner markets or gas stations to fill their bellies. With healthier food options costing more than pre-packed, shelf-stable options, many grocery stores in more impoverished communities even lack fresh items. This means thousands of people are missing essential nutrients in their everyday diets. Poor nutrition leads to increased health disparity between wealthy and poor communities, as chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and others soar.
Although a garden might not seem like a life-changing initiative upfront, at CSM, we see how the power of tending God’s creation changes lives over and over again. Those living in food deserts are empowered to grow their food and fight for change in their undernourished communities. Gardening also is a healthy activity that promotes exercise and fellowship. Jeremiah 29:5 says, “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.” as a command to invest in our communities in ways that are empowering and sustainable. God cares about feeding His people, and so we will feed His people.