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Planting for an Outdoor Sanctuary

5/18/2022 By: Heather Wolfe

Planting for an Outdoor Sanctuary

‚ÄčThe JoinTrees project of Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship

On May 7th, Green Up Day Vermont, members of Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship in Taftsville, Vermont turned out for a tree planting project on church grounds, transforming lawn into an edible forest garden. Thirty fruit and nut trees and shrubs were planted on this initial work day plus a row of raspberries. Mennonite Men's Join Trees initiative supported the project with a grant which provided a financial contribution towards each tree planted. Additional grant support was awarded from the Green Mustard Seed Fund administered by the Mennonite Creation Care Network. Without a line item in the annual church budget, grant funding was critical to bring vision to reality.


Taftsville Chapel had established 4 permaculture gardens in 2017 (shade garden, pollinator garden, apple guild, and blueberry row) and were thinking about expanding when they heard about the JoinTrees project. A focus group from the congregation was engaged with Andrew Hudson, an AMBS divinity student and intern with JoinTrees, around how churches relate to land. Conversations with Andrew were thought provoking and evoked desires around the church land.


"We saw an opportunity to rewild our property with native plantings that provide hospitality to all God's creation, human and other species alike," reports Heather Wolfe, the church's creation care liaison. "Less lawn means less mowing. More native plants mean more habitat and food. Planting a mini orchard of fruit and nuts will create an edible forest garden that honors what the land wants to naturally be while providing sustenance so all creation can flourish," she adds.


At the same time as the congregation became aware of the JoinTrees initiative, they also learned of the Rewild Vermont campaign sponsored by 350Vermont to plant 100 thousand trees across their state by the end of this year. With their one tree planting project, Taftsville Chapel was able to participate in both JoinTrees and Rewild Vermont initiatives. As a result of the forest garden expansion, Taftsville Chapel has applied to be part of the Sacred Grounds program

through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Earlier this spring they became a certified wildlife habitat through the NWF. As part of this designation the children helped to install a birdhouse on the church land for Earth month and are delighted that a bluebird is nesting in it! The newly planted trees and shrubs are largely native plants that will provide food, cover, and places to raise young for wildlife.


The way the planting area was designed, as the trees grow, the space will increasingly feel like an outdoor sanctuary. Taftsville Chapel also hopes that neighbors will feel welcome to come enjoy this green space within the residential hamlet. They have added a picnic table and bench to encourage human visitors to stop and enjoy the space, to be still and know God the Creator by immersing themselves in creation.


The JoinTrees campaign of Mennonite Men aims to target climate change by planting one million trees by 2030. Learn more about the campaign and grants available at or send a report and photos of your own tree planting project to The vision of the JoinTrees campaign is a healthy, thriving planet where God's abundant life of shalom is enjoyed by all from generation to generation.


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