Located in an empty lot off of North 21st Street and West Garfield Avenue, Alice’s Garden is a hub of urban agriculture that is centered as much around spirituality as it is gardening. In this space, community members rent plots; garden-goers gather for worship; volunteers mulch, plant and weed; local artisans sell their wares at markets; movie nights delight children; and crowds gather for yoga.
All of this is the brainchild of Venice Williams, executive director and evangelical minister, who has helmed the enterprise since 2014. “We’re striving to build a close-knit, old-style community in the 21st century that is focused on connection and spiritual healing,” she says. “Though I am part of the evangelical church, you do not have to share my belief system to pray with us. It’s more about feeling connected to God and also to the land.”
On Wednesday evenings during the summer months, it’s easy to see Williams’ mission coalesce. Community members gather to share a meal and walk the labyrinth, a path reserved for prayer and meditation. Plot owners take a break from gardening to participate in The Table, a potluck dinner combined with prayer that is led by Williams, who also doles out gardening advice during her downtime. On these nights, Alice’s Garden seems like a little bit of paradise, where hope is plentiful, food is available to all and everyone is welcome.
Cheri Johnson (left), spiritual ambassador at Alice’s Garden, offers guidance about the proper way to walk the labyrinth: breathe deeply, walk at a slow and mindful pace and stop to reflect when you reach the center.
Strawberries are an early summer crop, and kids enjoy picking them as much as eating them.
Volunteers are always needed on workdays to tend to community plants or help with gardeners’ needs, like watering flowers.
The garden attracts men and women who find satisfaction cultivating plants and vegetables in their plots of land.
“Alice’s Garden is all about caring for creation,” says Venice Williams, executive director. “We invite all people to come in, pause from the city, and take time for spirituality.
All plot-renters need to bring are seeds and tools; the garden supplies the rest. Gardeners help each other out and share extra produce, leaving it on a table for others to take.
Third-generation gardener Amber Scholle-Malone and her daughters work together on her plot during the summer, often daily. “My daughters just love working in the garden, especially my 5-year-old – she talks about gardening all of the time.”
A group of women gather for The Table, a weekly worship activity in which people bring dishes to share, pray together, and work to foster a sense of community.]