Why you want to know Tom Rohr: Tom was instrumental in acquiring a license to begin a Catholic radio station on the campus of St. Vincent de Paul in 2000. Since 2005, this station, KDUA 96.5 FM, is currently the only radio station in Arkansas that broadcasts Relevant Radio. Out of this ministry, Tom also began a garden ministry that provides fresh, locally grown produce for families in need and those served at the parish food pantry.
Name: Thomas Eugene “Tom” Rohr
Parish: St. Vincent de Paul Church
Family: Therese, his wife of 33 years; three daughters and three grandchildren
How did you get started with the garden ministry?
The garden ministry actually began before the food pantry. Originally, we thought about breaking up the lot, which is almost an acre, into plots and leasing them out.
But one afternoon, when I was gathering vegetables, a woman came by and needed food assistance. I gave her two bags of vegetables and she was so thankful. That is when I knew the Lord really wanted the garden to be used in assisting the food pantry.
Tell me how it works, what produce you raise and how it serves the parish?
The main crops are potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and green beans, but we also have some fruit trees. We have apple, apricot, peach, fig and a few pawpaw trees. An active beehive on the lot helps with pollination in the garden. We will raise about 10,000 pounds per year with typically 99 percent of it going toward the food pantry.
What I enjoy most is the sense of community the garden provides. We get together on Wednesday nights and work as a group and then share a big meal. Many people I know, I would not have met if it weren’t for the garden. I also enjoy people enjoying the food I prepare for our meals on Wednesday.
But a garden ministry allows you indirectly and directly to serve the poor. One out of four individuals in Benton County are meal insecure so we also pray for all of the people who will use the food.
Does gardening provide a prayerful or centering experience for you?
As Catholics, we have a liturgical year, and I feel like the rhythm of the garden is very natural like that. Many of the younger people who work in the garden really have a sense of satisfaction in seeing something grow. While working in a garden, you have a chance to have conversations and not be distracted with technology.
What I have learned is that God’s plan for me is sometimes different than what my plan for me is. I think when we are open and we follow what God has planned for us there are sometimes surprises. The community is what makes me feel very blessed that I did accept the ministry of the garden.
What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Psalm 51 is my favorite verse because it tells me that God is merciful. He works well with a humble heart.
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