What started out as a small herb garden in 2010, on the grounds of the Viatorian Province Center, has grown into a thriving community garden, with multiple families, organizations, teams and other faith communities participating.

Associate John Dussman plants flowers to draw pollinators.

It was Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, who planted the seed for the garden, back in 2012. Right from the outset, he described it as a ministry, with its mission to feed the hungry by raising fresh produce for local food pantries.

“We, as a community, have been very blessed,” Fr. Hall said. “This is something we can do to help those around us. We see it as our responsibility and our mission.”

Each year, participation has grown, especially during and after the pandemic, when interest in outdoor gardening flourished.

Now in its 11th year. the garden has averaged nearly 1,000 pounds of vegetables for area food pantries. However last year, after doubling the number of beds — and drawing many more gardening partners — Viatorians produced more than 2,000 pounds of nutritious produce for hungry families.

Potatoes and green beans sprouting up

Associate John Dussman has coordinated the garden for many summers and he returns this year with the help of his brother-in-law, Ed Flynn. Together they drew members of the Arlington Heights Garden Club, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, the First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights, members of the Children of Abraham Coalition, as well as Saint Viator High School student athletes on the field hockey team, and even its head football coach, Dave Archibald and his family.

In all, there are 25 plots in the enclosed garden. Volunteers raise a wide variety of vegetables, including: zucchini, peppers, dill, lettuce, kale, basil, chives, cilantro, cucumbers, tomatoes, banana peppers and squash.

“It’s really rare to have this large of a garden getting so much direct sun,” says Dwayne Anderson, a master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension Program and member of the First United Methodist Church. “I really like the mission of the garden, of giving away so many vegetables to the food pantry.”

Dwayne Anderson directs students on where to lay fresh mulch.

As a master gardener, he readily shares his expertise with fellow gardeners and even students who stop by to help. During a recent visit of students in Saint Viator High Schools Service & Song Camp, he asked them to try and identify some of the plants.

“Very good,” he told them. “You’re now a step ahead of most Americans who have no clue about where food comes from.”