Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creating an Edible Forest at Church

 New Chapter Unfolds in FUMC's Partnership With Iskashitaa

For the past four years First United Methodist Church has worked with Iskashitaa Refugee Network in a variety of ways. One of the first things Rev. Beth Rambikur did on arriving at FUMC was to go to Iskashitaa to meet Dr. Barbara Eiswerth (founder & director) and Natalie Brown (development director & member at FUMC) and to explore the partnership:  past, present, and future.  Brainstorming for the future focused on exploring ways to produce food on FUMC property.  

Shortly after, Pastor Beth wrote a letter of support affirming the partnership that helped Iskashitaa in receiving a grant from the Arizona State Forestry Department.  In part, this grant supports Iskashitaa staff and volunteers in collaborating with FUMC and the Wesley Foundation to establish an “edible forest” at FUMC.  The edible forest will consist of trees, herbs, and shrubs that will provide food resources for refugee families.  The grant also assists with the costs of the existing Iskashitaa harvesting program and provides resources to establish a program of systematically identifying, pollinating, and subsequently harvesting dates from palm trees throughout Tucson.

Two planning meetings have outlined steps in developing the Edible Forest at FUMC.  An initial action step was the recent composting workshop at FUMC, led by Iskashitaa volunteer Sheryl Lehman.   Follow-up will be to establish a composting site at FUMC.   Lauren Maghram from FUMC plans on using our "recyclables" from Social Hall events as "fodder" for the compost.   Additionally, Dr. Barbara Eiswerth recently taught an adult Sunday School class entitled, “Heart of the Harvest”.   Additional classes will be held later in the year. Separate from this grant project, Iskashitaa’s Faith-Based Organization Liaison and United Methodist US-2, Stephanie Plotas, recently coordinated a Food for Thought potluck at FUMC with refugees and members of other faith communities present. The September Coin Sunday offering and a United Methodist Women's donation were designated for support of Stephanie's work.  Our partnership is indeed multifaceted. 

Leadership and volunteers from FUMC are meeting regularly with Iskashitaa staff to finalize plans for the Edible Forest.  If you have an interest in assisting with planning and/or maintaining these fruit- bearing plants, or assisting with the compost pile, please contact Natalie Brown at or call 520-440.0100.

Iskashitaa Refugee Network is very grateful for the ongoing support of First UMC.  Your partnership truly makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of refugees throughout Tucson.

For more information about this Iskashitaa partner, visit the First UMC website

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