Feed the Poor from Your Garden: Simple Ways to Share Your Harvest

feed the poor from your garden

As summer progresses, gardeners are reminded of the profound legacy left by St. Fiacre, a relatively unknown saint who holds a special place in the hearts of those passionate about tending to gardens.

A seventh-century Benedictine monk, St. Fiacre developed his horticultural skills in Kilkenny, Ireland. His expertise in medicinal herbs drew many visitors, ultimately disturbing the solitude he cherished, prompting him to seek solace in France.

St. Fiacre’s journey led him to St. Faro, the Bishop of Meaux, who granted him land to establish a hermitage that eventually served as a sanctuary for travelers and a site for cultivating food. A miraculous event marked the acquisition of this land: Fiacre dragged his spade (or staff) around the perimeter, and wherever it touched, vegetation cleared, creating a wondrous garden space.

St. Fiacre’s Hermitage and Gardens

At his hermitage, St. Fiacre cultivated not only vegetables and medicinal herbs but also established a sacred garden dedicated to the Blessed Mother, inspired by the scripture from the Song of Solomon.

His garden thrived so abundantly that it supported the needs of many, embodying his mission to aid the poor. Visitors and pilgrims, often farmers themselves, learned valuable gardening techniques from him.

The plenitude of St. Fiacre’s garden was considered miraculous. This abundance was preserved by the Benedictine monks, who meticulously documented herbal and horticultural knowledge. Later, Cistercian monks expanded this agricultural expertise, significantly advancing farming practices across Europe.

Medieval and Modern Gardening Practices

Gardens in St. Fiacre’s era were quite different from today’s well-organized rows. Companion planting—growing flowers, food, and herbs together—was the norm, much like modern organic gardening practices.

This method promotes pollination, reduces pests, and improves nutrient cycling.

In later periods, English and French gardens featured organized sections, with medicinal and household herbs grouped together, separate from potagères or kitchen gardens. These gardens were not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, combining practical planting with artistic design.

Today’s edible landscaping continues this tradition, blending form and function in garden spaces.

Giving Back Through Gardening

Even a modest vegetable garden can embody the spirit of St. Fiacre’s generosity. By dedicating part of their harvest to others, gardeners can make a significant impact.

St. Fiacre kept only a fraction of his produce, giving the majority away—a practice akin to reverse tithing. Contemporary gardeners can follow suit by growing extra produce for donation or participating in local food programs.

Community gardens play a crucial role in this mission. These shared spaces provide opportunities for people to grow food, share resources, and exchange knowledge.

Often located on public or private land, community garden plots can be rented for a minimal fee and are instrumental in supporting food security for those in need. Churches and schools can establish such gardens to benefit their communities.

Programs like “Plant a Row for the Hungry,” initiated in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association of America, encourage gardeners to donate surplus produce. This initiative remains active and is a testament to the enduring power of collective effort to address hunger.

Posted by Samuel Brown

Samuel Brown is the founder of REEP.org, a Christian blog intertwining gardening with spiritual growth. Through REEP.org, Samuel explores the biblical symbolism of gardens, offering practical gardening tips infused with spiritual insights. Inspired by Jeremiah 17:8, he emphasizes the parallels between nurturing plants and cultivating faith. Join Samuel on a journey where gardening becomes a metaphor for resilience, spiritual fruitfulness, and a deeper connection with God's creation.