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Alta garden a harvest of hope

By: Marci Seither, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Members of Sierra First Baptist Church in Alta are digging really deep for ways to reach out to local residents. Alta residents Tina Hendrix and her husband, Danny, were desperate for fresh ideas on how to meet the nutritional demands of their daughter Mary’s strictly organic diet. With the encouragement of Pastor Scott Saunders, Tina Hendrix shared her autistic child’s need with the Baptist Church congregation. Soon the dirt was flying. Literally, right into the small-space gardening boxes that Carol and Dan Dove have set up on their 50 acres near Cape Horn. The carefully planned garden has been a community effort and is dedicated to help nourish 19-year-old Mary Hendrix, who suffers from a compromised immune system due to the severity of her condition. The Doves took the idea of a community garden to the congregation and volunteered to spearhead the project due to the location of their home and the availability of irrigation. When others heard of the project there was an outpouring OF support for Mary and her parents. Wood was donated for the boxes, as were the plants contributed by Eisley's Nursery in Auburn. "Plus," said Carol Dove, "We just found out that we are one of the recipients of a grant from the Placer Community Foundation which will enable us to expand our dream of helping others by planting an orchard and other high-yielding organic crops." To apply for the grant, Dove needed to have a goal and plan for the garden project. Besides the actual gardening, there will be classes onsite on how to compost, basics in worm farming and planting potatoes. They will also be co-coordinating classes on canning pickles and jams. One of the issues that the group has dealt with is the unseasonably late start on getting plants in the ground. "The ground is still so wet and cold," said Dove, who is hoping that the remainder of the boxes that are still empty will be planted soon. "We are thankful that this land is a blessing to others," said Dove, who is modeling the 12 square-foot garden boxes from the examples she has read in Mel Bartholomew's book “Square Foot Gardening." While gardening isn't a new concept for several members of Sierra First Baptist Church, being able to plant a community garden as an outreach is something they hope will not only reap a harvest of nutritional produce, but a place where people can connect with each other on an emotional and spiritual level as well. "I spent a lot of time working together with my dad, who taught me the basics of gardening. It was really a precious time when we talked about life issues during those times together. It is nice to see that this project will not only help Mary but also bring people together,” Dove said. Dove is also relying on the experience that others in the community have had with this efficient method of gardening. "We did an ‘adopt a box’ to help cover some of the expenses and ended up adopting out 23 of the 34 boxes, now being planted with everything from zucchinis, tomatoes and several varieties of potatoes.” Tina Hendrix said she and her husband “prayed about what kind of help we were going to need for Mary. We were also hoping that it wouldn't just benefit her, but would be a blessing to others as well.” Hendrix is grateful that is what happened. “There is just something so peaceful and therapeutic about tending a garden. It is exciting to see so many people involved. Knowing that Mary's food is being grown locally is really something I could not have even imagined. We are so thankful,” Hendrix said. With a better awareness of the importance of a healthy diet, more people are turning toward organically grown produce and foods. Sierra First Baptist Church members hope that Mary's Garden will be a model for others who want to utilize their resources in reaching out to others in their communities. "Mary loves it here," said Hendrix, who recently took Mary to the sunny garden spot located near the Dove's ranch style home. "Just being able to see something that is growing and know that everyone here is benefiting from being together is a blessing."