No one knows for sure how many hungry mouths have been fed by the Plant City Commons Community Garden.
Bob Abbenzeller, one of the garden’s founders, reels off a list of crops that have been harvested, from black eyed peas to cabbage.
“It’s been more successful than I expected,” he said.
Those who work in the plot at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church joined together recently to celebrate the first full year of harvests. The church rector, the Rev. Tom Thoeni, led them in prayers and asking for God’s blessing on the land.
“Hopefully we’ll have another successful year,” Thoeni said before leading the group around the boundaries of the property. He spread incense and led the group in a liturgy and prayer.
Artist Kimberly Wyant unveiled artwork for the garden inspired by an angel.
“She represents life and growth and change,” Wyant said.
The roots of the May 8 ceremony, called a Rogation Day Procession, can be traced to the fifth century church.
The community garden has attracted a small group of volunteers who tend the ground. They pay $25 per year, or $35 for a private plot.
The workers share in the harvest, and excess fruits and vegetables are donated to help feed the needy.
“We have basically accomplished what we wanted to do, to get people involved,” said Karen Elizabeth, one of the founders of the garden.
The garden, about 160 by 60 feet, is planted on the grounds of St. Peter’s youth center at 309 N. Carey St.
The gardeners shun chemicals and fertilize and fight pests with organics. The crops change with the seasons, although local nursery owner Richard Skinner has donated trees that were mentioned in the Bible: olive, pomegranate and fig.
While the garden is located on the grounds of a church, anyone can join in the effort regardless of religious beliefs.
Abbenzeller said he’d like to see more people working at the garden.
“It’s not one of those things where you have to kill yourself,” he said.
Harry West, a board member, said he works in the garden “whenever I get bored. I come over here and do a little work.”
Anyone interested in joining the community garden can call Elizabeth at (813) 435-8111.
Elizabeth hopes to build on the success of the first year. She particularly wants to expand the amount of help to the needy.
“We look forward to the garden becoming more prolific so we can help out even more,” she said