The Lord’s Acre Gives Back in More Ways Than One

There is proverb that’s been uttered from the mouths of canny pedagogues for centuries: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

The statement rings true no matter how you twist the metaphor. For example: Teach someone to grow things in the dirt, to love the dry cracks of soil on their hands as they pull vegetables from the ground like so many multicolored gems, to savor the crisp bite of their labors, and you feed them for a lifetime. 

Such thoughts are the stimulants for local nonprofit The Lord’s Acre. 

“The intent of the original group was to grow food for our local food pantry,” says Susan Sides, Garden Manager and Program’s Director of the Fairview-based garden. The old adage (or at least the thought behind it) prompted the organization to do more. “Pretty quickly the board wasn’t happy with just giving food away. We had a lot of potential in our group, and we wanted to address the underlying issues that cause folks to need pantries in the first place.” So they decided to do something more. 

The core concept of The Lord’s Acre, she notes, is economic in nature. Many of Western North Carolina’s underprivileged residents are hungry, and while pantries are a great temporary solution, they only sustain rather than alleviate the greater problem. So The Lord’s Acre adjusted their endeavors to reflect broader intentions for change. 

By expanding their scope, The Lord’s Acre not only bolstered their economic impact, they also began to foster community. “We decided we wanted the group to create a place where anyone would feel welcome to come, so people can break down the barriers they have,” Sides adds.

The Lord’s Acre currently has five arms, all of which intentionally amend community fracture and facilitate independence. They still donate produce to Food for Fairview, a local food pantry, as well as the Fairview Welcome Table, a free weekly lunch that stitches together different communities with threads of good food. 

A partnership with Green Opportunities Kitchen Ready program (which cultivates valuable kitchen skills in folks down on their luck so they can gain employment in local restaurants) familiarizes students with more exotic ingredients like edible flowers, ginger, and turmeric. The Lord’s Acre also donates produce to Bounty & Soul, which distributes the goods via free food markets, delivering nutrition and knowledge in one fell swoop. 

Finally, the organization hosts their own Share the Harvest Market, which encourages local gardeners to share their harvest alongside The Lord’s Acre. The Market returns to the parking lot next to the log cabin church just above the Fairview library on Thursdays from 11:30 – 1:00 in spring. 

But perhaps the way The Lord’s Acre gives back the most is through the land itself. Harried millennials, rowdy families, and composed retirees alike gather under the summer sun to plant, weed, harvest, and celebrate the green things that grow from the nonprofit’s grounds. Like muddy tinctures of old, it’s the dirt of The Lord’s Acre that serves as a healing bandage for our community.