JOPLIN, Mo. – Growing Hope Garden, located at the northwest corner of 4th and McKinley in Joplin, hopes to connect with the community and provide free produce to anyone who needs it.

Last year, Growing Hope Garden gave away 600 pounds of potatoes and 40 bags of lettuce to the community, including local shelter Watered Gardens.

The community garden was formed four and a half years ago when Journey Church, located across the street, purchased the land to potentially build on it. But upon finding out it was old railroad property that wouldn’t drain well, the church asked its newly formed Family Care Ministry if they would like the land.

Husband and wife Annette and Scott Wagoner, Family Care Ministers at Journey Church, took the opportunity and decided to turn the land into a community garden.

“My husband and I always had this dream of having land, doing a community garden… We jumped at the chance,” said Annette Wagoner.

It was always a passion for the Wagoner family to “be able to garden and garden with people.” Learning what the garden could do for the community gave them all the more reason to make it happen.

“We saw the research that a community garden statistically lowers crime in a region, helps bring people out of poverty. This area has a high poverty level and we thought that this was something we could do to join church members with community members and build relationships and help give away food as well,” said Wagoner.

But they couldn’t do it alone. Wagoner thanks George and Peggy DeDen for their help with the garden.

“I really lean on them for their knowledge,” she said.

The garden is made up of beds for renters and beds for the community. Each rental bed is claimed this season, but can be rented for $10 when available. In this case, “you plant, you harvest.” Otherwise, beds marked with a ‘C’ are community beds which anyone can harvest donated produce from.

On Saturday March 27, locals came together to plant potatoes in the garden. Some crops are already planted and others are in the works. According to Wagoner, lettuce, spinach and radishes will be ready toward the end of April. Cauliflower and broccoli should be ready mid-May and potatoes will be ready mid-July. In May, tomatoes and peppers will be planted and will start producing mid-July.

The garden also includes an orchard which features cherry, plum, pear, apple and peach trees.

Growing Hope Garden parks a truck at the garden with a sign marked “free produce” when crops are ready to be given away. The produce can be found on the tables under the garden’s pavilion. The pavilion can be used for events upon request.

To contact Growing Hope Garden or get involved, you can join the Growing Hope Garden Facebook group or visit the garden on a work day.

Work days, or planting days, are the fourth Saturday of each month. The events start at 9 a.m. and will take place March through October, weather permitting.