On October 4, 2009, the Second Unitarian Church of Omaha hosted a Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival. This projected highlighted all four focus areas of the Green Sanctuary program: worship and celebration, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living and brought attention to the Congregational Study Action Issue – Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice for 2009-2012.
Members created a festival plan, designed advertising, built family friendly interactive games, implemented sales of pumpkins, collected and contributed canned donations, sat at booths to run games, prepared food for volunteer workers and interfaced with the public. The intended scope of the project was to bring membership in alignment with agricultural reality versus the ideal. Using the religious education curriculum started in January 2009, the children planted seeds and nurtured them into young sprouts. The teens were introduced to long-term planning and commitments by aiding in the labor to prepare the ground for planting in March 2009 and later to supply the labor to distribute flyers and run the booths at the festival. Beginning January 2009 church members provided pre- and post- Sunday service commitments by providing the vision, sprouting seeds, transplanting seedlings, watering the patch, consulting and problem solving things like soil balance, predator control, early ripening while reaching out to the church neighborhood and connecting the church to the local community via contact with the Omaha Food bank and surrounding farmers.
Through the process, the members of Second Unitarian of Omaha learned about the very issues the small organic farmer faces each day, and became more enlightened and compassionate toward the future of food. They acknowledged the fragile connection we maintain with nature and the intimate pledges we maintain as to how we care for the environment. Materials for the patch were a collaborative effort of farmer donations, merchant donations, and purchases paid for with money from the sales of Free Trade coffee and teas. The project yielded sixty-seven pumpkins grown to maturation. They collected one 55 gallon blue barrel filled with canned food items, and made a $592 monetary contribution from pumpkin sales to the Omaha food bank. Through the Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival members celebrated the completion of a multi-faceted, multi-generational educational, environmental justice, and sustainable living agricultural project. Learn more about the project at Second Unitarian Church of Omaha’s website.