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Dirt Education

Gardening As Ministry


My field education job title for the summer of 2019 is Garden Goddess! My joyous duties include coordinating a team of students, faculty and staff to plant, tend and harvest produce from the Harvard Divinity School’s organic vegetable garden. Our twelve raised beds behind the Dean’s house on Francis Street were inaugurated in 2009 by staff and students passionate about ministering to the earth and to their fellow humans. We grow everything–peas, lettuce, chard, tomatoes, basil, beans, eggplant, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, herbs, nasturtiums, marigolds, petunias, and even sometimes okra! We harvest and deliver twice a month to Faith Kitchen in Cambridge for their community meal. The HDS garden isn’t big enough to ever provide all of the veggies needed for these meals, but every little bit of what we grow helps that ministry flourish.  

The Divinity School Garden, being like all gardens so deeply evocative for the human imagination, provides rich metaphors for the spiritual and intellectual journey I’m undertaking at HDS. I came to Harvard as a writer, a scholar of environmental writing, and as a college English and creative writing professor of 30 years. To fund this time of exploration and transition, my partner and I sold our small farm in Maine, where she and I raised goats and chickens and grew most of our own food. Near the end of my first city winter, longing to get my fingers in the dirt, I joined Leslie Artinian MacPherson, an HDS staff member who is the heart and soul behind the HDS garden, in the first step of the garden cycle—starting seeds. She and I and a handful of other students and staff gathered around a seminar table covered in a white cloth, filling small black pots with moist rich soil, nestling tiny pepper and tomato and eggplant seeds into the dirt, then setting the trays of would-be vegetables, flowers, and herbs in the sunny deep windowsills of Rockefeller Hall. Helping to start the seedlings was a nourishing and hopeful act. There is nothing like the smell of dirt and the promise of a seed in the palm of your hand!  

Providing organically-raised eggplants and tomatoes for Faith Kitchen meals will not fill every empty belly in the world. It will not end food insecurity in Boston. But, it does move us all in a more humane direction. The truth is, the HDS garden is part of meaningful change, one tiny seed at a time.

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