Winton is a small town in rural central California that has been hit with the economic downturn and the water shortage in the area. Now more than ever are people need to come together and share their resources and that is exactly what happened in this small town.
Winton is known for its crime, drug abuse and its high number of people on welfare. Winton is divided into several groups: established homeowners (farmers and business people who have lived here for generations, working hard to make their dreams come true), the Hispanic migrant workers (fighting to provide for their families), and the families who have settled here during the last generation.
There is a clear divide and it is sometimes hard to break through, but when the love and compassion of God works in people’s hearts that all changes.
As the economy in Winton went from bad to worse we had several families in need of regular food assistance and the idea was put in place to think about a community garden that would provide fresh vegetables and fruit to families.
A couple from Gateway Community Church, Merced, lived in the outlying area of Winton all of their lives. We approached them to see if they would be willing to make some of their land available to the community to start a garden. After prayer and meetings they were open to set aside some land for us to cultivate.
There were things to consider: safety, liability, bathrooms, the neighbors (one neighbor inquired whether they should stop their mail to avoid it getting stolen by the people working in the garden), watering etc.
In the end, a fence was built (to hold out the horse), water hoses were laid and the seeds planted. The little garden gets watered and weeded and last week we were able to harvest our first tomato, and a lot of squashes and zucchinis… what a pleasure to see people receive healthy veggies.
For the couple, it was a stretch, but also a blessing. Did we get it all right? Definitely not, but by God’s grace we are all learning and growing, learning from God and learning from each other.
Will the couple be the same? No, because they now have seen a close-up glimpse of people in need. Will the gardening community be the same? No, because they were exposed to what a beautiful home and yard can look like. Will I be the same? No, because I see the excitement in people’s eyes when they get to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Did it effect the whole community? Yes, because socio economic walls were broken down, people worked side by side in the dirt for a common purpose of growing healthy fruits and vegetables.