By Jessica Hearne, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel
Who knew it would be so difficult to grow watermelons? Isaiah certainly didn’t know when he started planting them on the Urban Farm five years ago. We can grow cucumbers just fine, and watermelons are kind of like cucumbers, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Maybe it should be easy to grow watermelons, but for the last several years, Isaiah and I just haven’t been able to get it right. There were one or two years when the vines didn’t really thrive. We can probably chalk that up to bugs and critters, who apparently like to feast on the young plants.
About three years ago we had vines, and the vines had melons on them; but we returned to the farm one day to find all of the melons had exploded. Too much water? A rare exploding watermelon gene? Either way, it was another year without watermelons. Isaiah was ready to give up and who could blame him? Growing watermelons occupies an entire garden bed, so why would we continue to use all of that space for no benefit?
Isaiah has been a leader in our garden since before I took over as manager five years ago. When I talk to partners about the importance of the “community” portion of a community garden, Isaiah is one of the folks that I have in mind. He has been present nearly every Thursday workday in those five years. He has also been one of our most consistent prayer partners, learning how to navigate the complicated process of calling in to a Zoom meeting on a cell phone in order to join us for Sunday prayer services while socially distancing.
Isaiah’s persistent presence in my life and in the life of Grace and Main, as well as other garden and neighborhood leaders like him, is how we are able to keep going in hard times like the last two years. These leaders pray with us, keep us updated on other folks in the neighborhood and help us make decisions about how best to use our time and resources to make life better for those around us here in Danville.
When it comes to growing watermelons, maybe the key is persistence. Isaiah and I decided to give the watermelons one more try. We planted the seeds, then protected them with natural pest repellents that I have been learning to make at home (keeping the plants free of chemicals). We read about watering and how you’re supposed to turn the irrigation off in August to help them ripen. We also read about how to tell when they are ripe, hoping to avoid the heartbreak of two years ago when we picked a beautiful 15-pound watermelon, only to cut into it and find that the inside was completely white.
All the hard work, the constant presence in the garden with Isaiah and persistence finally paid off this year as we harvested our first ripe, sweet, delicious watermelons. In the 2022 growing season, we harvested nearly over 185 pounds of watermelons. We gave them away to people in our food desert neighborhoods for families to enjoy.
And Isaiah finally got to share his hard-won, home-grown watermelons with his grandchildren.
Jessica and her husband, Joshua, serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Danville, Va. Learn more about their ministry at cbf.net/hearne.
The Offering for Global Missions provides for the long-term presence of field personnel like Brooke and Mike. The theme for this year’s Offering is “A Place at the Table for Everyone.” In Luke 14, Jesus teaches us to invite those least expecting and, in society’s view, perhaps least deserving of invitation. CBF field personnel serving in countries around the world invite and are invited to the table as they cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus Christ, and seek transformational development.
Learn more about the Offering for Global Missions and access free digital and print resources at www.cbf.net/ogm.