Food to Share

Elizabeth Mann

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.” —Giada De Laurentiis

Elizabeth with goat
As a girl raised in the city, I was surrounded by grocery stores and fast food restaurants. I experienced a life of convenience in which most people give little thought to the impact their decisions have on the environment. My perspective started to change when, every day, my family passed construction sites cleared of beautiful trees that had once been a home for birds and animals. God planted a dream in my heart that would lead me on a journey greater than I could have imagined.

learning to garden
I wanted to live in obedience to God, who calls us to be good stewards of the earth. My journey started with a small packet of tomato seeds and a dream to raise vegetables for my family. My dream quickly expanded to transform my family’s suburban backyard into what I called my “Secret Garden.” Soon, gardening became a family effort as we sought to understand and practice sustainable living. What followed was an even bigger dream.

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
When we moved to North Carolina, we stepped out in faith to do something not only for us, but also for the community. We bought a five-acre wooded property and built our family farm: SHAPE Eco Farm, which stands for “Sharing Hope and Peace on Earth.” In my new sixty-by-twenty-foot garden, I grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers. I also am involved in butterfly conservation. I have a butterfly pavilion where I breed butterflies to release and also to take to schools to teach about raising butterflies.


teaching garden IMG_5278Working in the garden gives me an appreciation for the work that goes into the food we eat. I grow vine-ripened tomatoes, homegrown squash, cucumbers, and many more crops. I’m not only cultivating the soil; I’m also cultivating a spirit of patience, humility, and understanding. I’m often reminded that I don’t know everything about gardening. Growing organic food for my family takes much more patience than going to the grocery store, but it is well worth the effort.


goats playingThe most exciting part is what my family is doing in the community. We offer tours; and visitors—preschoolers, adults, and even professors—have come to see what we are doing. We have a little of everything. In addition to the butterflies, we raise goats, baby-doll sheep, chickens, rabbits, our guard dog Blizzard, and even worms to compost our kitchen scraps. For the animal habitats, we use materials that would otherwise have been thrown away. My ultimate goal is to educate the people who come to our farm about what sustainability means. Gardening is a labor of love that is meant to be shared.



Baby doll sheep2Do you want to start gardening? The best way to begin is with container gardening or a raised bed. You can easily grow plants like tomatoes, eggplant, and lettuce in pots. You can build a raised bed by buying wooden planks at the hardware store, screwing them together with deck screws, and filling the box with soil and compost. If you don’t want to start plants from scratch, go to a nursery and purchase seedlings. First Thessalonians 4:11 (NRSV) says, “Aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you.” How can working with your hands glorify God and be a godly witness to others?


Elizabeth's garden

Elizabeth Mann , 22, is the author of four books and a blog called “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden.” In her spare time, she loves to knit, write, and garden. For more about SHAPE Eco Farm, check out her Facebook page.

—from devozine (July/August 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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