Gardens sprouting from the work of area churches | Richmond Free Press

At Second Baptist Church in South Side, volunteer gardeners are preparing to produce a cornucopia of vegetables and herbs on a quarter-acre garden plot next to the sanctuary on Broad Rock Boulevard.

Separately, 31st Street Baptist Church in Church Hill and its nonprofit partner, Tricycle Gardens, are in the midst of their renewed effort to grow a bounty of fresh food for East End residents on the nation’s first designated urban farm that sits on nearly an acre behind the sanctuary.

And Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jackson Ward is in the throes of testing urban gardening in raised beds installed by a parking lot in a partnership with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Across the community, African-American churches are taking a leadership role in the community gardening movement in Richmond.

The purpose: To bring fresh produce to areas where residents without personal transportation live a mile or more from a full-service grocery store.

The most ambitious project is being spearheaded by one of the area’s largest churches, St. Paul’s Baptist, the Henrico County-based, 9,000-member worship center that Dr. Lance Watson leads.

The church, which has had a community garden in past years through a partnership with the nonprofit Another Chance to EXCEL, or ACE, is going bigger this year with a program called “Let’s Get Growing.”

St. Paul’s is teaming with the National Black Farmers Association, as well as ACE and another nonprofit, Kinfolk Community Empowerment Center, to develop a 5-acre garden on its land on Creighton Road, the site of its main sanctuary.

The project also calls for growing produce at two other locations. One is Farmstrong, a community garden at Armstrong High School on Cool Lane. The other is a section of the Mosby Court public housing community northwest of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where a community gardening effort is to be expanded.

The church’s plans call for planting 20 to 30 gardens, up from 15…

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