‘Former farmers’ manage church’s garden ministry

A desire to get one’s hand’s dirty while having fun are two valuable skills needed to work at Hope United Methodist Church’s garden.

A sense of humor is needed too, as volunteers can expect plenty of good-natured kidding to come their way.

Joe Griffiths and Al Hauschildt, of Marshalltown, both “former-farmers” as they call themselves, have been managing the 65-by-45 foot plot, directly behind the church’s west side, for four consecutive growing seasons.

It is part of a ministry to help those less fortunate, and specifically, the patrons of Marshalltown’s Emergency Food Box benefit from the donated produce.

“The garden has proved to be extremely valuable to the people who utilize the EFB,” said Eileen Mitchell of Marshalltown, a parishioner. “We are fortunate to have Al , Joe and their volunteer helpers take care of it, so that others may benefit.”

The garden has proved to be productive.

In 2011 and 2012, Griffiths estimated the vegetables to have a cash value of $2,000.

“We estimate the value based on the poundage grown times the price per pound charged for items at a local supermarket,” Griffith said.

Ada Brown, EFB co-chair, said, “Awesome, that is what I can say about the help we’ve received from the church garden. Our clients really appreciate having freshly grown produce.”

On a hillside bathed in sunlight Wednesday morning were several rows of vegetables, many shin-high or taller.

There was nary a weed in sight among the beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, squash and more.

It was a sea of green, as recent warm temperatures have given many of the plants a healthy, robust color in contrast to the slightly lighter green grass that surrounds the patch.

Of slight concern to Griffiths and Hauschildt were several deer prints and the resulting evidence of leaves nibbled and tops of some plants bitten off.

The deer come up from a nearby creek and elsewhere, the men said.

Griffiths farmed for years near Clemons while Hauschildt’s farm was north of Marshalltown.

Hauschildt said he still works part time for a friend, mainly during harvest.

“It’s a chance to get my hands dirty,” Hauschildt said. “When I arrive for work, the tractor is warmed up and ready to go. I don’t have to worry about maintenance issues and all the work is done during the day.”

Griffiths has been working as a substitute school bus driver for the West Marshall School District but is seriously considering another opportunity.

A farmer friend has offered him a part-time job with a chance to get his hands dirty again.