Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

July 21, 2013

Community gardens raise more than veggies

TRAVERSE CITY – A new community garden grows in Acme Township this summer on a five-acre plot that one day will become the site of Greek Orthodox Church.

And the years-old Mancelona Community Garden is getting a fresh start, thanks to an ongoing advocacy effort by an Antrim County nonprofit called ISLAND, an acronym for the Institute of Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design.

Both are part of a patchwork of community gardens across the five-county Grand Traverse region that provide a place for area residents to grow vegetables for themselves, area shelters, churches and fresh-food programs, or to sell to area restaurants.

Sometimes they have other purposes as well.

Father Ciprian Streza, parish priest at Archangel Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church in Traverse City, never had gardened in his life. But that didn’t stop him from starting the one-square-acre Angels Orthodox Community Garden in May with the help of parishioners, non-parishioners and a Bertha Vos pre-kindergarten class.

“They teach me gardening and I teach them the theology of gardening,” he said of his congregants. “This is just one step. We wanted to do something we could afford and is practical.”

Church services currently are held at 1030 Hastings Street directly across the street from the Coca-Cola offices. Streza said construction of the new church is probably two years off.

In the meantime, the 30-family congregation plans to create a prayer garden and a small wooden structure that can be used for weddings, vespers services and Bible study.

The Archangel Gabriel garden includes 24 plots. Streza’s 5-year-old daughter, Katherine, is among the gardeners. She and classmates planted seeds, grew seedlings, planted them and are watching tomatoes and broccoli grow, Streza said.

“Now they will know miracle of growth from seed to plant to food,” he said.

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