At the end of a laneway in the middle of the bustling Melbourne CBD, a unique indoor farm is growing. The “Green Room” is the centrepiece of a new social enterprise, Planted Places, whose mission to combat social isolation is bringing new life and new skills to disadvantaged members of the community.
Common Grace supporter, Sherry Maddock, is the founder and director (or, as she prefers to think of her role, gardener) of Planted Places, and describes this social enterprise as “a work of ecology” which exists to “cultivate relationships between people, plants and place”.
Planted Places came into being as a way of responding to the isolation and fragmentation that so often permeates contemporary culture, seeking to offer repair in a fractured time through being a place of hospitality and welcome. Central to this mission is the message of the gospel. As Sherry says, “at the heart of our work is the gospel invitation to draw near to God through love for the world and especially the most vulnerable. This sits alongside our deep conviction that God loves the world as it is and that we are to tend and keep God’s creation.”
Because of this conviction, caring for God’s creation is a key part of what Planted Places are all about – not only as a way of responding to ecological crisis, but because of a belief that tending to God’s creation goes to the heart of what it means to be made in His image.
A plant care workshop with members of Collins St Baptist Church. (Photo supplied)
Answering God’s call to love the most vulnerable of those made in His image has led Planted Places to work with people seeking asylum and refugees, by inviting participation in gardening and plant care. Not only does this have the practical benefit of teaching skills that may equip individuals for employment in the horticultural sector, but as Sherry describes, can also lead to “a profound sense of dignity and hope”.
One example of this came about when Planted Places was working with an asylum seeker housing facility. Sherry shares the following story:
“After an indoor landscaping activity, one of the residents stood back and surveyed the new plants in the shared living areas. With a smile on his face and hands in the air he exclaimed, ‘You came and you made this a house!’ Plants transform places, and places form us into new people, no matter what kind of distress and difficulty we have experienced. It was a moment in which we witnessed the reality that plants give life.”
Sherry Maddock from Planted Places delivering new plants to the indoor farm. (Photo supplied)
As a movement of Christians, Common Grace is committed to preserving and restoring God’s beautiful creation, through bold action that addresses the pressing environmental challenges we face today. But even bold action starts with tending to God’s world in small ways, and enjoying the places He has given us. Being introduced to Planted Places can prompt us, as a community, to consider how we can each begin to practice creation care with our own two hands.
Sherry says that one way people can do this is to find ways to bring plants into their own living and working spaces, to experience this live-giving quality for themselves. In doing so, all people can be reminded of God, the ultimate giver of life, and be encouraged to live in light of His promise of restoration for all of creation.
This story was written by Ally Neale, a member of the Common Grace Creation & Climate Justice team currently studying Law and Development Studies in Sydney.