Garden ministry sprouts by area church

Posted 5/9/24

The sighting was completely unexpected. Adjacent to the church grounds was a garden. A quick double-check revealed that the garden was unmistakably associated with the church.  

There, just …

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Garden ministry sprouts by area church


The sighting was completely unexpected. Adjacent to the church grounds was a garden. A quick double-check revealed that the garden was unmistakably associated with the church. 

There, just behind the Liberty Methodist Church, four miles east of Quitman on Hwy. 154, was a sizable garden on the slope of the hill north of the pavilion.

It seems a natural relationship – a church and a vegetable garden – but it remains quite a unique sight. In fact, that particular garden is the only one that comes to mind in the county.

Investigation revealed that the garden is not officially a church garden, but rather the initiative of one staunch church-member, Wayne Barnett.

Barnett, a native of Waskom, has been tending farms and ranches in the Lake Fork area for some time. As he explained it, his life has been all about “plants and people.”

It was a conversation with a couple of fellow churchgoers that led to the garden project. As Barnett explained, “Brothers Dave and Jerry suggested I make use of that area, so I got to work.” If the readership hasn’t noticed the garden behind Liberty Methodist, it is because it just went in. 

That is no small undertaking. Barnett had both knees replaced less than a year ago, so as he stated, “I had to cut back to 3-4 hours a day.” He also admitted that age has forced him to listen more to his body.

He confessed that he really didn’t have an objective for the garden. “I hope that the produce gets to those who need it,” he stated. Barnett envisions setting up a small table in the shade of a large oak next to the church, at the intersection of Hwy. 154 and CR 3130. Also a possibility is setting up in front of Mother Frances Hospital in Sulphur Springs at Airport Road.

Barnett has planted, or is planting, the whole long list of vegetables seen in East Texas gardens: onions, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, potatoes, green beans, purple hull peas, English peas, turnips, peppers, etc. According to Barnett, that includes the two most difficult to grow – corn and pumpkins. Watermelons will also be forthcoming. 

Barnett offered some straightforward advice for those preparing a garden. He recommended turning manure into the soil in the fall, allowing the soil enough time to digest it. This particular garden he began working in February, but next year he should be able to give it the full fall treatment.  

He also named several options for keeping pests at bay. Those included spraying strong black tea to repel insects and a combination of peanut butter and strong peppers for varmints. 

His sole reference for gardening guidance is the Farmer’s Almanac.

Chatting with Barnett about gardening takes one down several sidetracks, all of which revolve around a central theme of service. Barnett leaves little doubt about where he gets his guidance.

“You only need two books in life,” he stated, “the Farmer’s Almanac and the Bible.”

The gardener spoke unabashedly about the environment of Liberty Methodist Church and the leadership of Rev. David Hicks.

“You can feel the presence of the Lord here,” Barnett said. “We welcome anyone…. Tell us what you need, God is here.”

Barnett shared some of the impacts of visits to local missions which he (and the church) support. Kindness Cottage, Mercy Mansion and the Rainbow Room are among them. He was especially struck by the challenges of the children at the Rainbow Room. 

His orientation toward service was illustrated when – during the interview at the garden – a neighbor and fellow church-goer dropped by to ask Barnett to mind his chickens for two days. “Its in my schedule,” Barnett responded with a smile. 

There is little doubt that the produce from Barnett’s garden at Liberty Methodist will end up in the grateful hands of those in need. And who knows, the partnership between church and garden may just have started a trend.