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E.D.E.N. Gardens

Changing the world one tomato at a time

Our Garden Story

St. Mark’s & St. John’s is proudly located in the Beechwood neighborhood in the city of Rochester. Dismal statistics have made Beechwood and our adjoining neighborhood, EMMA, a focus area of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI). There have been many talented and caring people from all corners of our city and surrounding county who have met, strategized, mapped, and then met some more in hopes of stopping the downward spiral of oppressive forces that are at play in our neighborhood. The issues are complex and Rochester, as is true with so many other places in our country, did not get here overnight.

For decades SMSJ was emblematic of what was happening in our neighborhood. We were losing members and money, having to heat and keep up a large physical plant, all the while professing to be a beacon of hope for those who needed it. In 2012 the church's leadership decided to chart a different course. We stopped praying for our own institutional survival and started praying that God would direct our hearts, minds and hands in a way that we could make our neighborhood a place more reflective of God's dream for all of us. So we stopped attending meetings and literally started digging. 

Since then, we have started seven urban vegetable gardens. Tangible signs that transformation, life, and health are possible NOW. We've nurtured and harvested thousands of pounds of vegetables and distributed them to our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and their children. We've laughed and cried with our neighbors... mowed grass, picked up trash, pulled weeds, spread compost, handed out food, anointed those who sought healing, danced with our kids, watched the sun go down on the front steps with our neighbors, canned salsa and sauce, and tried to not take ourselves too seriously. We've witnessed the miracle as groups from Starbridge and Heritage Christian Service planted tiny seeds and were amazed together as they grew into something we could share for lunch. Along the way we have been changed, and are continuing to be changed by the magnificent people who live, work, and love in our neighborhood. Come be a part of it.

Our Goal

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Creating beautiful and nurturing

community spaces

The E.D.E.N. Gardens each have art, picnic tables and benches, making them great spaces for neighborhood gatherings and events.

Our Gardens

Our Gardens
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Church Garden

1245 Culver Rd.

Established in 2013

Garden Captains: Mary Ellen Forszt and Mary Estey

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EDEN 1199

1199 Culver Rd.

Established in ??

Garden Captains: Melanie Popick and Judy White

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E.D.E.N. Merchants, 622 Merchants Rd.

Garden Captain: Deb Snyder  |   Gardening time: Tuesdays at 5:00 PM

E.D.E.N Merchants is home to 16 raised beds, a shed built by residence of St. Joseph Villa of Hope, and a picnic table placed by NeighborWorks Rochester and the City of Rochester for our neighbors. Landscaping was initially completed by Broccolo Garden Center. With a grant from the Community Foundation in 2019 we were able to add a fence in the back of the lot. 

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The Children's Garden

408 Rosewood Terrace

Established in 2016

Redesigned into Children's Garden in 2020

E.D.E.N. Children's Garden, 408 Rosewood Terr.

Garden Captain: Maria  |   Gardening time: Fridays at 10:00 am

E.D.E.N. Children's Garden is a multi-sensory garden designed for children. Based on the principles of horticultural therapy, this garden is a safe and natural space for play and learning in the neighborhood. With money from the GrowRoots Good Grass-root grant we were able to put in a new short fence, clean-up the back of the lot and plant red clover to remediate the soil, and build a few more beds. With a grant from the Community Foundation we added a children's picnic table, an outside bulletin board and chalkboard. 

E.D.E.N. Parsells, 336 Parsells Ave.

Garden Captain: Mike Finn   |   Gardening time: Tuesdays at 4:00 PM

E.D.E.N. Parsells is home to several raised beds that were installed as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester's summer youth program - Missionpalooza. This lot, like our other gardens, houses an Amish Shed. In the Spring of 2021 five heavy concrete planters were installed and planted by members from a fraternity at Rochester Institute of Technology. In the summer of 2021 our SOOP (Summer of Opportunity Program and My Brother's Keeper) teens installed an additional bed at this site. 

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E.D.E.N. Garden, Church, 1245 Culver Rd.

Garden Captains: Mary Estey and Mary Ellen Forszt   |   Gardening time: Wednesdays at 8:30 AM

The first of our gardens, E.D.E.N I is home to 20 raised beds, a perennial pollinator garden, our bee hive (tucked away on the roof!), blueberry bushes, and a handful of dwarf fruiting trees. Special thanks to First Baptist Church of Allen's Creek Rd. for their financial assistance in helping us with some special projects at this garden.

E.D.E.N. Training Garden, Hazelwood and Denver

Garden Captains: Rebecca   |   Gardening time: Saturdays at 9:00 am

The largest of our gardens, E.D.E.N. Denver Training Garden spans two lots and is home to nine 42 ft rows of crops, a large training shed, and several raised beds. The garden serves as a training site for our Summer of Opportunity Program (S.O.O.P.) interns throughout the summer and includes tables and benches to encourage neighborhood use as a community space. This garden will be home to some significant upgrades in 2022. 

EDEN Parsells

Corner of Parsells and Denver

Established in 2018

Garden Captain: Deacon Mike Finn

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Fresh produce from the E.D.E.N. Gardens is distributed through our weekly Food Shelf, and sold at low prices at our Saturday Farm Stand in an effort to reduce the impacts of food insecurity in our neighborhood. 

E.D.E.N. 1199, 1199 Culver Rd.

Garden Captains: Melanie and Judy  |   Gardening time: Mondays at 6:00 PM

E.D.E.N. 1199 is home to 25 raised beds, five of which were installed this past Fall (2021) by a fraternity from Rochester Institute of Technology. This garden is also home to our Neighborhood Composting Program. Learn more about our composting program here.

Our Bees


Starting in summer of 2021, SMSJ officially acquired our very own bees. They are located on our roof, and we routinely collect and sell or donate the honey that they produce. Make sure to give a wave to our little friends next time you see them!

Our Bees

Neighborhood Composting

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Our Composting
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