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Plowing New Ground: Templeton Hills Church Community Gardens

ConferencesCentral CaliforniaPlowing New Ground: Templeton Hills Church Community Gardens
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By Deloris Trujillo

The members of the Templeton Hills church had been praying about how to use their land to bless the community. It occurred to Pastor Zac Page that their big empty field could be a community farm. After talking it over with his wife, they thought of two church members, Matt and Sabrina Giese, and their dream of starting a farm.

Matt was mowing the church’s lawn when Page asked him about the idea. Amazed, Giese turned off the mower and said that he and Sabrina had just been praying and saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to farm here on the church grounds?”

Although the special projects team began planning, things moved slowly until the school principal called to let Page know there was an opportunity to apply for the creative evangelistic funding from Central California Conference (CCC) and the Pacific Union Evangelism Endowment fund. However, the application was due the very next day. Church leaders quickly decided to move ahead, and their application was approved.

God continued to open doors. Giese, who eventually was hired to manage the farm, wanted a hoop greenhouse for winter and summer use, but tubing alone cost $3,000. On Craigslist, Giese found everything for a hoop greenhouse for $700—a greenhouse that was four times larger and had originally cost $12,000!

Children harvesting vegetables
Children enjoy harvesting tasty vegetables. A community family displays the variety of beautiful produce they picked.

Even the grand opening date in February seemed to be God-timed: just a month later, the pandemic changed everything and the farm became an essential and thriving service to the community.

Testimonies abound as to the impact on members of the community. One community member attended the plant-based meals class at the church. Her husband, who owns an equipment repair shop, was so grateful that he donated $1,000 to support the farm and offered to fix equipment and lend tools. Other contributions from local businesses include a nursery that donated over 60 fruit trees, an electrician who offered to help as needed, and a family who sold their tractor at a discount because they were moving.

When church member Steve Mulder, an anesthesiologist, was furloughed for several weeks in March, he used his time to work long hours at the farm. Several of his friends came to visit the farm and were very impressed. This included his daughter, Jenny, who hadn’t come to church for a long time. Her response was, “This is the best thing the church has ever done.” She and her sister regularly volunteer.

Farm manager Matt Giese and daughter pose on the tractor generously sold to them by an outgoing missionary family.

Obviously, people from the community enjoy the fresh produce, but they also have become friends with church members. Mike picks up produce and stops to chat when checking on his hive on the property. Bruce, a neighbor, volunteers regularly. Barbara and Joe come faithfully each Sunday and brought 15 community garden club members for a tour. Michelle enjoyed volunteering so much that she posted it on her Facebook page and invited her neighbors to come. She and one of her neighbors now want to learn more about the Bible. Grayson started attending church after the Life Hope Center clinic and then continued because of the farm. He wants to be baptized soon.

The goal of Templeton Hills church’s community evangelism project was to build friendships with the community by providing fresh produce and monthly plant-based cooking classes. The garden has already served as a bridge to bring new friends to church and even has brought some former members back. Additionally, it is helping church members to become more involved and the community to see the church in a more positive light. As Page commented, “This is a rapidly growing farm that seems to be a big inspiration to everyone who walks on the grounds. We’ve been amazed every step of the way as God has opened doors over and over for this project that keeps expanding and moving forward.”

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Get a glimpse from the drone footage on YouTube

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