The roots of community
When Fr. Peter Rood talks about the
Holy Nativity community garden, you can tell that, no
matter how much work he has on his plate, this is a
project where he will drop everything to get it
"The conception of the community garden
happened about a year and a half ago, when my leadership
group and I were envisioning what the church should be
doing," Fr. Peter says. "We've tried to be discerning in
ways we can effectively engage and involve the wider
community with concerns we all share — like environment
and quality of life."
Since January 2007 Fr. Peter has been
laying the foundation for a community garden on the site
of Holy Nativity Parish's former lawn. Set in phases,
the project began with setting up a flower garden on the
"For phase one we repurposed a bed full
of junipers that we designated to grow the flowers we
plan to use to decorate the church," he says. "I talk to
the local wholesaler I buy roses from and they are flown
in from Ecuador, and that's a lot of jet fuel. So in the
spirit of concern for the environment, we're pushing
community members to develop a local mindset, and buy
The flower garden will include
oleanders, roses, asters, bearded irises, and varieties
of lillies, he says. But besides the financial benefit
of growing their own flowers, Fr. Peter stresses the
importance of cultivating an independence from products
that come from foreign nations.
"This project has
become an opportunity for people to rethink and reskill
themselves," he says. "People who have never thought of
the environment are beginning to think in new ways. A
generation or two ago, people knew how to grow food in
their own homes. Today, though, TV dinners are the
"Families can make this garden a family
project, bring their children and claim a bed to grow
their food and vegetables."
The front lawn of
Holy Nativity has been torn out in order for phase two
to begin. The groundbreaking for that phase will happen
at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 8, where the beds that have been
installed over the past few months will be
"A big chunk of our property was
devoted to watering a green patch that serves no other
function than to look pretty and absorb water," Fr.
Peter says. "So much water around here is such a
valuable resource that, in the spirit of repurposing, we
decided to make it a functional and an edible
Families with food insecurities can
participate in the garden and adopt a bed, while the
rest of the surplus will go toward the LAX Food
"With this project, we succeed in doing
something that benefits the environment, and address
social concerns as well by having food go to the local
food pantry," Fr. Peter says.
advised Fr. Peter as he initiated the second phase of
the project. Program director Joyce Lipinski guided the
community as they researched where to get compost and
what kind of vegetables to plant. The focus, Fr. Peter
says, is on the yield of the plant and those vegetables
with longer shelf life. Beans, squash, chilies, beets,
lettuces, chard, tomatoes, peppers and basil are among
the initial crop planned.
organizations have expressed interest in Holy Nativity's
project, and various groups have pledged support for the
"We are hoping to have community leaders
at our kickoff this Sunday, and have enjoyed much
sponsorship from the faith-based community as well," Fr.
Peter says. "While we may be a religious congregation,
we really wanted the emphasis of the garden to be an
extension of our ministry and our
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center,
St. Jerome Catholic Church, Islami
City, and the
Westchester Clergy Association have all donated flowers
or offered to sponsor beds in the Holy Nativity Garden.
Several Girl Scout troops have participated in the setup
of the garden, and community members have all donated
time and effort to see the project come to
Phase three will expand the garden to
the rear of the church, where citrus beds can replace
the groundcover and azaleas so differently abled folk
can have access to gardening, Fr. Peter says.
have a vision of people from all walks of life and all
kinds of abilities to enjoy gardening, and all for the
benefit of people who can't afford to buy their produce
or have food insecurities."
Holy Nativity is
located at 6700 W. 83rd St., Westchester.
Information, (310) 670-4777 or