There’s room for discovery within our top-performing continuing care retirement community at Homestead Village. Step on the luscious property to find corners you have yet to discover, paths you may not have walked, or new ways to be engaged, connected, and contribute to others.
Just around the bend on Apostle Way, Lancaster, PA, lies Rader Park, owned by the Church of the Apostles. It’s a 20-acre expanse including a community garden with 12-15 plots (which anyone can rent for $15 a year).
Rader Park not only includes an expanse of soybeans but also The Seeds of Hope garden—16 raised beds, producing a cornucopia of vegetables that are donated to the Hempfield Area Food Pantry. Last year, the pantry received 1,500 pounds of fresh vegetables.
From spring through fall, you’ll likely see people working in the gardens, including Homestead Village residents and volunteers such as Carol Nielsen, Milt Gockley, and Betty Reif. Another Homestead Village resident, John Hess, transports the produce to the food bank in Landisville.
Carol Nielsen is at the heart of the garden and leads volunteers who devote many hours a week to this special project. She started working in the garden from the moment she arrived at Homestead Village in 2012.
“[Rader Park has] been there for ages, stretching back, probably, to when it was originally farmland,” she says.
Working in the garden brings back childhood memories for many volunteers like Carol. Her first taste of gardening was when her family had a victory garden. At age of 9, she began growing beets, which her mother cooked and served with butter and salt.
Betty Reif grew up in a large family, and her parents grew most of their vegetables.
“I was husking corn and shelling peas from the time I was a little girl,” she says.
Even as an experienced gardener, Betty said she still has continued to learn a lot from Carol.
“She researches everything we need to know about how to make the vegetables grow better.” She added, “Gardens have phases: from preparing the beds in spring to planting, harvesting, and weeding!”
There’s always a lot of weeding to be done in Rader Park, which makes the more helping hands the merrier. Beyond that, the joy of planting the seeds, watering, nurturing, then seeing the garden produce from early spring through summer and fall months is well worth it.
Milt Gockley said he was drawn by the notion that Seeds of Hope provides food to the Hempfield Area Food Pantry.
“I was flabbergasted by how many people lined up, even before the food bank opened. It gives me some sense of satisfaction that when I go to the garden to work, it’s producing some results to provide food to people who are food challenged,” he stated.
Carol reflected that she loves “being outside in nature, hearing the birds, experiencing the changing weather surrounded by trees”. Some of these trees were actually saplings when Homestead was founded on the Brubaker Farm.
Depending on the month, there are yellow and green string beans, snap peas, shell peas, beets, spinach, carrots, lettuce, garlic, several kinds of onions, and lots of tomatoes (including Linda Kay Pressley’s heirlooms).
At this time of year, you can also see the frothy leaves of asparagus, harvested in the spring in exchange for donations which fund the seeds.
The garden and surrounding park is actively used—children experiencing nature as part of organized outings and outdoor activities, a beekeeper tending to hives, and the Chesapeake Alliance conducting a stream study of Brubaker Run. You also might find a wedding reception in the woods or a family picnic in the park.
On a recent visit with Carol, she shared, “It’s also a great place for walking. There are just a few gentle hills. It’s lovely by the brook, especially in springtime with flowers popping up. But, virtually any season. There’s also a meditation walk with four gazebos where you can stroll, read, and meditate.”
Carol and her group welcome all to visit any time in the gardens at Radar Park. The garden takes many volunteers to plant, weed, and harvest. If you have a green thumb or you’d just like to learn about gardening and support this special cause, you can call the church office at 717-392-5718 or stop by to talk to someone working in the Seeds of Hope Garden.
If you’d like to learn about other volunteer opportunities available to Homestead Village residents or would love to discover the other life enrichment opportunities for those on campus, contact us today.