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Ubuntu and Tomatoes

two ripe tomatoes

This guest post was written by Colleen Earp, Camp Hanover’s director of youth, environment, and service ministries.

Ubuntu. I am because we are.

Ubuntu is one of the themes in InsideOut’s summer camp curriculum PeaceWorks, which Camp Hanover and many other faith-based camps are using this summer. This Zulu word suggests the interconnectedness of humanity, more literally translated as, “a person becomes a person through other persons.”

To me, this interconnectedness extends beyond humanity and throughout God’s creation. We find peace for and with the earth when we take care of all of it, including one another. Learning about ubuntu in community at camp reminds us to remember each other in peace and work together for this peace.

Which brings me to tomatoes.

The garden at Camp Hanover is full of fruits and vegetables in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some people visit the garden very familiar with what’s there, coming from a home with a robust backyard garden of their own or even a full farm. Other campers and visitors have never seen a tomato on the plant before, much less its small, yellow blossoms.

garden at rockfish pc
Rockfish Presbyterian Church has taken wonderful care of Junie’s pink tomatoes, carefully collecting seeds and growing new plants this year. Their garden produced more than 1,700 lbs of food for the local food bank last season.

Maintaining a wide variety of plants in that space leads to wonderful lessons in nature, food, and diversity—not just in the types of veggies growing, but also in our different experiences around those foods and the good earth they come from.

One of our favorite things growing in Camp Hanover’s garden is a certain pink tomato. Its seeds were gifted to us by a man named Hansford Rife, who lived near Camp Hanover and would often attend the monthly Common Chords events.

Junie, as he invited us to call him, had a friend who served in the US military in Germany during World War II. This friend had a tomato sandwich he enjoyed so much, he brought a few of the seeds home with him. Junie and his friend grew this wonderful tomato every summer since, sharing the fruits and seeds with friends and neighbors.

Junie passed away in the spring of 2016. Since then, his pink tomato seeds became a focal point for the garden.

two ripe tomatoes
In addition to the pink tomato (right), Junie shared another variety with Camp Hanover: a red and yellow striped tomato that looks tie dyed on the inside.

Campers and volunteers help weed the garden beds, where numerous other colorful varieties of tomatoes and other veggies grow alongside Junie’s favorite seeds. Visitors learn about saving seeds and sharing food with others, especially those in need. And, in the spirit of an interconnected community, we have shared those seeds beyond our garden.

This summer, the pink tomato will also be growing at Rockfish Presbyterian Church, South Hill Presbyterian Church, and Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, as well as in the home gardens of several pastors and friends in Presbytery of the James.

These pink tomatoes, among other produce, will go on to church suppers and community food pantries. They will appear on the Camp Hanover salad bar and at campfire cookouts.

The pink tomatoes will serve as a reminder of ubuntu—that when we share, and work together, and remember each other and all of creation around us, wonderful things can blossom and grow.

woman weeding tomato plants
Eleanor Workman cares for pink tomato plants in the Ginter Park Presbyterian Church garden. The tomatoes and other veggies will be shared with neighbors of the church.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of the Vine. Find this issue and others online.