In 2009, Gene Gumfory heard a gripping message from Pastor Tommy Nelson at Denton Bible Church. The message, based on Matthew 14:15-21, focused on feeding the hungry.
“When Tommy read the text — not to go away, but give them something to eat — that segment of Scripture took on new meaning to me,” Gumfory said. “Shiloh Field, a community garden, was a result of how my heart heard the words of the message and was inspired by the passage of Scripture that day.”
The realization of his vision was slow in coming. First, he began looking for a small plot of land, maybe an acre or two.
As the months came and went, he found nothing suitable or affordable for a garden. A small patch where the community could have access to a gardening experience was his vision. Gumfory knew the crops would be shared with the needy, and envisioned seasoned farmers teaching city folks and children how to garden.
A post on the Modern Survival Blog says the farming industry is “a disaster,” and that it has been for 30 years. The post goes on to give several sobering statistics, including that the average age of U.S. farmers is 58, and that of the nearly 5.2 million people in North Texas, 631,260 are living in poverty.
Just imagine. Within that figure there are schoolchildren who can’t concentrate because they’re so hungry. Men and women cannot search for work or keep a job because they are malnourished. And sadly, many seniors cannot survive without proper nutrition.
At long last, Gumfory got an answer to his prayers. Fourteen and a half acres of land were donated to Denton Bible Church — much more than the one or two acres he wanted. The gift came with one stipulation: The plot was to be named Shiloh Field.
Gumfory was taken aback by the abundance of the donation.
“It was more land than I had asked [for] or dreamed of,” Gumfory said.
But he still had one thing to check out: He didn’t know if the soil was right for gardening. Sitting down in the heart of the field, he felt the ground, letting the sandy soil run through his thankful fingers. It was perfect in every way. In that moment, Gumfory said, “I dedicated that fertile gift to God, and looked out around me and envisioned magnificent ways the gift could help people.”
The first year’s harvest yielded 12,751 pounds of produce. Many local organizations that feed the hungry were given food from that yield. Some of the recipients were Our Daily Bread, the Salvation Army, Denton Freedom House, Denton County Friends of the Family and Solutions of North Texas.
The second year produced a harvest of 17,400 pounds. This year is off to a promising start.
A few weeks ago, when the thermometer dipped below freezing in Denton, gardeners were not dispirited. About 80 of the faithful went out to help plant onions and potatoes.
Shiloh Field has 129 garden plots open to the community. Gardeners are asked to keep their plots clean, and volunteers are in place to help the inexperienced. There is a table set up to donate excess, which is in turn donated. There is also a 3.5-acre co-op garden. Recipients must be there to help collect the harvest.
Gumfory chuckled as he described some added bonuses. A small child harvesting onions from the ground once looked up at him and asked, “Is this really where onions come from?” Shiloh Field also sponsors the occasional meeting where Master Gardeners speak on agricultural topics.
To reserve a garden plot, show up on any Saturday. The garden is located at the corner of Nottingham Drive and Mingo Road just before you cross the railroad tracks.
For more information, call Gumfory at 940-367-0221.
PAM RAINEY is a 40-year Denton resident and a real estate agent who has helped many seniors make decisions about living arrangements. You can reach her with suggestions at RpmRny@cs.com or 940-367-1188.