Alumni | Athletics | Fine Arts

Connect To Purpose


Be a gardener
Dig a ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.

Julian of Norwich, Christian Mystic (1342 – ca. 1416)

The Sand Creek Community Gardens is a commons for the community, a gathering place for learning and mentoring, and where food can be produced and shared with others. The mission is to provide peaceful and inviting gardening spaces for the students and neighbors of Bethel College. Over 60 persons are gardening in 2014. Students from Bethel College and families in the community work side by side in the gardens, including seven inter-generational plots involving parents gardening with children, and one adult garden with children from the community.

The gardens include 30 plots, each measuring 20 by 20 feet, which are available for individuals and families. In addition common areas are managed by the community of gardeners: perennial and annual flower beds, asparagus, herbs, rose beds, fruit trees and berries, a picnic area around a shed containing equipment for use by the gardeners, and mulch and compost bins.

The official governing body is an Advisory Council with representatives from the three sponsoring agencies:

  • Bethel College (including student representatives)
  • Bethel College Mennonite Church
  • The City of North Newton

A three person management team is responsible for the day to day operation of the gardens.


  • Nurture healthy bodies with locally grown, nutritious food; help reduce family food budgets.
  • Encourage exercise and therapeutic labor.
  • Foster community through inter-generational interaction; participate in common work days develop shared herb, perennial vegetable and native prairie flower garden; and create areas for social interaction.
  • Educate persons in good gardening practices that reflect care for God’s creation (water conservation, mulching, appropriate weed control and pest management, composting, building healthy soil).
  • Contribute to the green initiative of the North Newton community and the importance it attaches to a pleasant physical environment.

Guidelines for Gardeners

  • Smoking and use of alcohol are prohibited.
  • Small children are to be supervised by an adult.
  • No pets or vehicles are permitted beyond the parking area. Exceptions can be made for handicap accessibility.
  • All plots must be completely cleared no later than Thanksgiving Day to facilitate follow-up tilling of the entire area, unless arrangements are made for a no-till plot that permit cold frames or planting crops that winter over. We use a chisel/cultivator to loosen/break up the soil to preserve soil structure, rather than traditional tilling which pulverizes the soil. All tomato cages and other structures are to be removed from the gardens for the winter months and stored at home. Exceptions may be made for students who do not live in the area and plan to garden the following year.
  • Water costs (metered by the City of N. Newton) are divided equally among the plots. An annual assessment, based on water use the prior year(s), is to be paid with the application fee. An additional fee will be assessed at the end of the gardening year if water use exceeds estimates.
  • All plants shall be confined within the borders of the garden plot. Gardeners are expected to control the weeds and grass along the edges of the gardens so that the public paths an more easily be mowed to maintain a neat appearance.
  • Reasonable control of weeds is expected. Gardeners are expected to maintain their plots throughout the gardening year, including after a garden is no longer being used for vegetables or flowers. Gardeners must make arrangements for maintenance of their garden when they must be away for an extended time.
  • All vegetation (including weeds, vines, and other vegetable plant refuse) cleared from the gardens shall be placed in a designated area within the compost area. Refuse should not be placed on the pile where composting is in process. A pile of finished compost is available for gardeners. Please observe the signs.
  • Gardeners are expected to read carefully and follow the practices of organic gardening as outlined in Guidelines on Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers (adopted by the Advisory Council, January 13, 2014).
  • Gardeners are expected to attend occasional general meetings convened for discussion and information on best garden practices (water use, mulching, weed control, pests, building soil quality).
  • Gardeners are encouraged to participate in announced general work days. All gardeners are expected to contribute about a half day of work toward the general maintenance and improvement of the gardens, and the irrigating and weeding of the common areas.
These regulations are subject to periodic review and change. Suggestions are welcome.


The Sand Creek Community Gardens are located in the Northeast area of the Bethel College campus, just to the north of Memorial Grove and the trail head of the Sand Creek Trail. To access the gardens, turn right (East) on 29th St off of Highway 15. Go past the tennis courts and follow the gravel road around the east side of the tennis courts.


Duane K. Friesen, Garden Manager

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.