OLG parishioners team with OLA students to grow garden honoring the Blessed Mother
BY TERRY DICKSON
BAY ST. LOUIS – Our Lady of the Gulf Parish is a parish on the grow.
Parishioners and students from Our Lady Academy have banded together to plant a community garden.
“I guess you can say the purpose of the garden is for parishioners and school kids to come together and learn a trade that I kind of think is going away,” said Deacon Eddie Renz, who came up with the idea of creating Our Lady’s Garden.
“We’ve forgotten how to work the land and grow our own food. This community garden is a perfect opportunity to get wisdom from the adults and teach the kids a trade that they can hopefully pass down to the next generation.”
In his native Louisiana, said Deacon Renz, “Everybody had a backyard garden.”
“Over here, you’ve still got gardens, but not as plentiful as they are in Louisiana,” he said.
“It’s a little bit harder to grow stuff here and that’s probably why you don’t have as many.”
OLG pastor Father Michael O’Connor agreed that the garden presents a good opportunity for sharing amongst the parish’s older and younger generations.
“He thought it was important, especially before some of us older guys left with the knowledge and the kids don’t know what end of the plant to put in the ground,” said Deacon Renz,
Efforts to plant a community garden began last fall.
“It was a little bit too late to put anything in the ground, so we just started doing the groundwork of getting people involved,” said Deacon Renz. We had a couple of meetings to discuss what we were going to do and whether we were going to do raised bed or in-ground planting, what was the best raised bed we could make, what was the cheapest way, getting topsoil and what kind of plants we were going to put in the ground. From there, it’s still growing and we’re still kind of learning as we go.”
The group has planted potatoes, onions, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers and they’re hoping that their efforts will yield endless salad fixings.
“We have a couple of ideas of what we may do with the produce, depending on how fruitful the garden is,” said Deacon Renz.
“The OLA girls have a salad bar in their cafeteria, so we could give some of it to them to where they have the experience of not only growing it, but also using it in the cafeteria for their salad. Also, there’s the possibility that we might do a flea market with the parishioners, not so much to sell it, because we don’t want to get in the sales business. I’m thinking more along the lines of doing it in exchange for donations to Our Lady’s Garden.”
OLA junior Kloe Lloyd is a member of the school’s beautification committee, which is sponsored by Deacon Renz’s daughter, Karli, who teaches at the school.
“Our name is a mouthful but our mission is simple. We just want to beautify the school and, once we found out that Our Lady of the Gulf was starting a community garden, we decided to help because that’s exactly what we want to do,” said Lloyd.
“We’re also going to get a greenhouse and plant some other stuff around the school. What we’re going to do during the summer is all about bees. A lot of bees are dying off and, if you see grocery stores with the plants bees pollinate, there’s pretty much no produce. There’s nothing. So we’re going to plant bee friendly plants like rosemary and cilantro and some of that can be used in the OLA kitchen too.”
OLA parishioner Gayle Andersson is no stranger to gardening and said she’s delighted to pass on some what she knows to the students at OLA.
“I think it’s a viable program for the kids. It teaches them a whole lot – planting, inception, carry through, and the end results,” she said.
There’s a big payoff for them at the end – either the product they will use for themselves or a charitable product – so, either way, they’ll get something out of it.”
So far, said Deacon Renz, things are slow going, but he’s happy with the progress that has been made.
“Weather has a been a big factor,” he said.
“We also got some topsoil in, but we finally got that in and got it distributed. So, we’ve got stuff in the ground. I’m happy.”
Of course, in addition to weather, gardeners also have to contend with varmints.
“Father Mike asked me if I’m worried about the four-legged critters,” Deacon Renz said.
“I told him I was more worried about the two-legged critters.”