The Opequon Presbyterian Church Roots & Shoots community garden in Kernstown has everything you might expect from a vegetable garden and more.

Church volunteers grow tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, strawberries, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, corn and melons as well as tomatillos, poblano peppers and jalapenos, which many of their clients enjoy.

But that’s not all.

“We have a gourd tunnel this year,” said Robin Owens, church member and volunteer gardener. “We’ve never had a gourd tunnel.”

Recalling how she and other lead volunteers had to talk the designer through their vision for the 8-foot-tall tunnel, she said in the end it was just as spectacular as imagined.

After setting up all the wire with help from parishioners Mike Wygant and Cole Owens, they arranged gourd plants at its base, encouraging the vines to grow up and over.

“The gourd tunnel is the coolest place in the garden,” said Bill Hopeck, designer of the community garden.

The church contributes about 95% of its harvest each year to two local food pantries, Owens said.

They supply Highland Food Pantry at 446 Highland Ave., Winchester, every Tuesday and last year also started supplying Sherando Food Pantry at 751 Fairfax Pike, Stephens City, on first and third Thursdays.

“God planted the seed,” Owens said.

“We are able to work through this garden ministry to reach out and engage others ... I think more emotionally than anything.”

The garden, which was successfully growing on a nearby farm for 10 years, was recently uprooted and moved onto church property when the farm was put up for sale, Owens said.

Volunteers built 34 raised beds along with fencing to keep out deer and groundhogs.

“The garden wouldn’t exist right now if it had not been for the community,” Owens said. “We started building the raised beds on the Day of Caring last year.”

She said a group of Navy Federal Credit Union employees came to help, along with Frederick County High School students and others.

“The process has been so gratifying, it’s been very rewarding,” Owens said. “It was exciting starting something from the ground up.”

The project has taken a lot of vision, she said, and she praised Hopeck for all the research he did ahead of time, including meeting all the necessary city and county guidelines.

Owens said the group chose the name Roots & Shoots in honor of the Bible passage of John 15:5, which reads, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”

“We chose that because we’re rooted in God’s love for us and he works through us,” Owens said. “The seed was planted in our hearts, I know it was.”

Plus, she said Pastor David Witt “has been 110% supportive of us.”

Witt volunteers with his wife and daughter to water the garden, along with Owens and many other parishioners.

The church has been delivering upwards of 2,000 pounds of produce to the area food pantries each year, Hopeck said.

So far this year, they’ve delivered more than 600 pounds.

Graham Taylor delivers the produce each week and “is just as solid as a rock,” Hopeck said.

What produce they don’t give to the food pantries, they use at the church during mid-week Bible study classes and as part of their fall harvest event.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the garden is invited to call the church to set up a time to visit.

“We welcome anyone that wants to come in and help,” Hopeck said.

Located behind Creekside Village south of Winchester, the garden is tucked away behind the church and is kept locked when volunteers aren’t there.

Owens doesn’t know of any other church community gardens around the area, and she said Opequon Presbyterian hopes to serve as a role model for how other churches might expand upon their missions.

“Everybody can do something,” she said.

“Even one small raised bed can produce an unbelievable amount of produce.”

For more information, go to or call 540-662-1843.

Contact Josette Keelor at