Victory gardens were phenomena’s that emerged during times of national crises in the 1900′s. During both the first and second world wars the U.S. government provided citizens with vegetable seeds and asked them, as an expression of national patriotism, to plant gardens in their yards and communities. Millions of people complied and the annual harvests of these novice efforts provided America with nearly one third of the nation’s vegetable needs during WWII. Not only did Victory gardens provide families across the nation with healthy food, but an unexpected byproduct of their efforts instilled greater mental health during a time that people were suffering horrendous levels of emotional stress.
In 1999 we started hearing about the potential threat of Y2K and like most people I didn’t know if it was a real problem or just conspiracy theories blown out of proportion. As a pastor of a larger church I felt responsibility for our people and wanted to prepare them if what was being said had any validity at all. Not knowing what to do I contacted the American Red Cross and asked them what they were doing about it trusting that they would have better information than an average citizen. They said they were concerned but like everyone else, they too were mystified. Our meeting was the beginning of a working relationship that was birthed between the local Red Cross here in Boise and the Vineyard. They established the church as a Red Cross crises center and trained our leadership as a quick response team to run it if necessary. Through that experience we learned the Red Cross was an amazing relief organization, but their one deficit was their ability to procure food and feed people. In most cases during major natural disasters this service is provided by outside faith based organizations such as the Southern Baptists.
That’s when we decided to build a food warehouse (now known as the Barnabas Center), a backup power system to run its walk in freezer and refrigeration system in times of power outage, and a community garden.
This was the beginning of what is now one of the largest organic community vegetable gardens in our valley known as the “Garden O’ Feedin”. The church garden started on a very small scale by some really dedicated faithful people. It was initially headed up by a young mother in our fellowship named Diane Robertson. As the garden expanded and grew in productivity Diane decided to procure a degree as a Master Gardener and went back to school. That’s when Bill Meeker was handed the responsibility of leadership for this massive undertaking.
Today the Garden O’ Feedin produces between 25,000 and 30,000 lbs of produce a season which is distributed twice a week to the poor. It continually expands taking up more of the churches 22 acre campus every year. To date I think it is about five acres. The garden is completely run by volunteers. (Bill recently informed me that he has one hundred committed workers this spring already. ) It has been nationally acclaimed and has become a prototype for community gardens across the nation. Recently the 700 Club flew to Boise to interview church members, shoot video and award the Vineyard as the church of the month because of the work Bill and his hard working volunteers are doing. The Garden has received the donation of two greenhouses, both of which were erected by church volunteers, endless tools and supplies and mountains of manure. Church members are asked to drop off discarded leaves at the end of the fall which is turned into soil compost. The whole project has been an amazing miracle that has become a major light in our community, especially at a time when people need a little victory.
Bill Meeker is becoming a legend in his own time. He is an example of a man who caught a vision to serve the Lord in a way that fit his gifting and is using his retirement years to see it come to pass. He is a loved man that loves people, and because of it he lets everyone have a part to play. His volunteer workers love him and love working for him. Bill is suffering with the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease but hasn’t allowed it to slow him down. He is the kind of leader that gets his hands dirty along with everyone else and is a wonderful blessing to us all.