This summer, 2015 Northwestern graduate Lyric Morris-Latchaw found herself digging into a unique community experience. After moving to a large community house in inner-city Cincinnati, Lyric and her husband Matt Latchaw (’14), became involved in a program called the Parish Farming School of Eucharistic Development. This program served as a springboard for Morris-Latchaw to start creating an organization of her own.
“Basically, the program is an internship where we garden eight plots of land around inner-city Cincinnati to grow food to serve at a pay-what-you-can pizza cafe called Moriah Pie, and for ourselves to eat,” Morris-Latchaw said. “In addition to gardening, the program also encourages readings on agriculture and theology, along with promoting a minimalistic and sustainable way of life.”
The internship acted as a catalyst for Morris-Latchaw, who took what she learned and proposed the idea of a community garden to her church leaders.
“Right across the street from us is an at-risk high school,” Morris-Latchaw said. “I contacted them about letting us plant a few small plots in a large yard between their school and our church. Then things exploded. Basically, the high school got back to me saying that they had almost $20,000 in grant money to put a garden on that exact space.”
The high school had encountered one critical problem with their garden. Most of the students are out of the school during the summer, when the bulk of the work needs to happen. With the promise of help from the church and community members during the summer, Morris-Latchaw started officially planning for the garden.
“It will be a community garden for our church and the surrounding community.” Morris-Latchaw said. “Hughes High School students will come in to do special projects—this fall they’ll be designing our compost bin, rain water catchment system, and designing and building a shed. In addition to all of this, they will also be selling the herbs they grow to local restaurants in the spring.”
Although she recognizes the hard work and dedication needed for the garden to be successful, Morris-Latchaw sees the project as an immense benefit for everyone in the community, from the professors and students at the nearby university, to those who also reside nearby in low-income housing. The garden has the potential to build bridges between groups of people that may not usually interact.
The idea for the garden is more than just practical; it’s also spiritual. Morris-Latchaw also sees the garden as a way for her church congregation to get more involved in their local community. Though gardening may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to ministry, Morris-Latchaw sees it differently.
“I have found that gardening is holy work, and that humans have been given this very special position in the universe of dwelling in the space between God and his creation,” Morris-Latchaw said. “We have the ability to talk to, learn from and relate with God. We also have the ability to take that knowledge and experience and use it to tend to the rest of his creation that has not been given this holy gift – no other created being gets to dwell in this space.”
The garden is still in the early stages of development, but the hopes of Morris-Latchaw and the rest of the community are high for the potential benefits it brings.