Food From Community Garden Promotes Healthy Eating

Since 2013, the United Presbyterian Church of Randolph has offered residents fresh produce at the stand on the grounds of the church, as well as garden plots where they can grow their own vegetables. Pictured, from left, are Master Gardener Reg Boutwell and Dick Chubon who co-chair and oversee the planting and care of the garden. Photo by Deb Everts

RANDOLPH — In an effort to benefit the community and encourage residents to think about healthy eating choices, the United Presbyterian Church of Randolph has continued its Randolph Community Garden located on the grounds of the church.

Deacon Donna Chubon said the garden came out of an original idea from a committee known as “New Beginnings Initiative,” in an effort to reach out to the public and to let everyone know what the United Presbyterian Church is doing in the community. She said the Community Garden was developed in May 2013 by Master Gardener Reg Boutwell and was officially dedicated the next summer, in June 2014.

Together, church members Reg Boutwell and Dick Chubon co-chair and oversee the planting and care of the garden, as well as do much of the gardening. Boutwell, who is a Master Gardener, said garden plots are “adopted” and tended by community members. People can keep and use the vegetables they raise, or offer a portion of their harvest at the produce stand for others to use.

“The initial garden started out with four beds, and that was the first year we grew any produce,” he said. “The garden beds were basically put in as a Boy Scout project by Austin Myers of Randolph. He was responsible for the construction, which includes special raised beds for handicapped gardeners. With the help of a few other scouts, he built the wooden structures, filled the beds with dirt and got them ready for planting.”

Boutwell said he and Chubon built the produce stand during the winter of 2013-14. They also worked together with the scouts on the raised beds, fencing and other projects associated with the community garden.

According to his wife, Louise, the Sunday School classes at the church did two vegetable beds this year. They planted cucumbers, squash, green beans and potatoes, but they haven’t been dug up yet.

“We gave them seeds that were big because if you try to do carrots or beets the seeds are too tiny for the littler kids to handle,” she said. “The sunflowers that are growing out there are beautiful. They self-sowed from last year’s crop when the kids planted them.”

Most of the vegetables on the stand come from the Randolph Community Garden located on the grounds of the church, but many are brought in by community members who want to share the bounty from their own gardens.

Dick Chubon said the Community Garden is one of the church’s outreach ministries and it benefits a lot of people. He thinks the garden has gone very well since it’s start and they’ve had a lot of participation. He said there are a number of people who have put items on the stand from their own gardens. Doug Matson of Randolph is one of the big suppliers, but there are also a lot of people who have brought in produce including herbs and pears.

“I’ve been at the stand in the past and I remember one particular instance when an older woman made a touching comment to me. She had tears in her eyes and said, ‘you know, if it wasn’t for this stand, we would have practically no fresh vegetables because all we have is our Social Security, so we just can’t afford to buy them,'” he said. “This kind of thing makes it all worthwhile. We’re delighted that the community can benefit from the stand and we think it’s a great success of our community outreach.”

There is no charge for vegetables from the stand, however a donation box is provided that says “take what you need, give what you can.” Proceeds go to the church’s mission committee, which supports many local groups including Randolph’s Community Cupboard, the St. Susan Center in Jamestown, Genesis House of Olean and local families in need.

Funds for the Community Garden Project have been provided by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s John McLaughlin Family Fund, Presbytery of WNY and the local mission committee.