It is common for churches to run, or at least be affiliated with, food pantries, but for Englewood Baptist Church in Gladstone, Missouri, a food pantry has grown into something much larger: Englewood Community Farm. The farm’s first fruit trees and berry patches were planted May 2, 2015, and it has been growing since.
Mark Buhlig, co-coordinating pastor of Englewood, says that over the last couple of years, Englewood’s food-oriented ministry has expanded from providing exclusively food to those in need to playing several different roles in the Gladstone community.
“Englewood Community Farm is a response to the basic need with which we all identify: food. Englewood Community Farm is a place for learning together about food…food production, food security and food sovereignty,” said Buhlig.
He went on to explain that people have increasingly lost touch with the land on which they live and, more specifically, the land that gives them their food. The ideal for the farm is to become a “food hub.” This term, as Buhlig explains it, breaks down into four things.
“What we dream of creating at our farm is a food hub: a hub of food production, a hub of food distributions, a hub of food information, a hub of food knowledge which will help us better understand food issues such as food security and food sovereignty,” said Buhlig.
Englewood aims to produce the best and most food as their land is capable of producing, distributing that food to as many people in need as they can and informing people about where food comes from and how to respect it as well as the land from which it grows. The distinction between information and knowledge is that of facts about food itself and facts about issues involving food, respctively. While these are the four main working goals, Buhlig sees the farm doing much more.
“We dream of a farm that produces food and opportunity…We dream of place in our community, a farm that is dedicated to helping us better understand the systems we are a part of: food systems, economic systems, social systems. And, we dream of a farm that is a platform from which to consider how such systems, as they are currently expressed, give our communities life and how these same systems drain our communities of life and health,” said Buhlig.
While its purpose is to serve the community in Gladstone, Englewood has looked outward to the greater Kansas City area in order to work with groups such as Cultivate KC, The Giving Grove and Boy Scout Troop 260 of Northcross United Methodist Church. They have also worked with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
“Additionally, we are in collaborative conversations with United Services Community Action Agency and faculty in the departments of biology and physics at William Jewell College,” said Buhlig.
Because of these conversations, Jewell students have gotten the opportunity to be involved with the farm. Chandler Eaton, sophomore, is one of these students and is currently interning as the farm’s community liaison.
“I focus on the city’s ordinances and policies in order to help the farm excel and achieve their goals while still coloring within the lines,” said Eaton.
Eaton sees potential in the farm and, like Buhlig, emphasizes the importance of sustainable farming to the community. The two also share the desire for the farm to positively impact as many people as possible.
“I hope it flourishes into a place where anyone can come and just pick fruit from the trees or vegetables from the garden,” said Eaton.
While he is expecting great things, Buhlig is not getting ahead of himself. He is not accepting the progress the farm has made so far as a final success and is looking forward to the challenge of expanding the farm and nurturing it through its infancy.
“It is early in the life of Englewood Community Farm. It is the spring time of our farm. Spring time is a time of new hope and new life, but new life is fragile and must be cared for,” said Buhlig.
The farm is located on Englewood Road on the grounds of Englewood. To learn more about the farm and Englewood Baptist Church, visit englewoodchurch.com.