Gardening with a purpose: Local pastor donates green beans to food pantry

“I just want to say thanks for allowing one of your city workers to be flexible and see the possibility of this,” said Rev. Keith Nelson.

Rev. Keith Nelson of downtown Mitchell's First United Methodist Church said their church was well set up for holding services via a livestream as they've already been streaming services for the past few years. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

One green bean plant at a time, a Mitchell pastor has fed the community he serves.

Rather than donating prepackaged food and canned goods, Rev. Keith Nelson used his gardening skills to grow green beans this summer out of the community garden.

After successfully producing roughly 40 pounds of green beans, Nelson, a pastor at Mitchell’s First United Methodist Church, donated the fresh produce to the Mitchell Area Food Pantry.

Thanks to the city’s cemetery staff, Nelson secured a plot of dirt at the community garden – which is located along the west side of the cemetery – to plant the green beans.

“I just want to say thanks for allowing one of your city workers to be flexible and see the possibility of this,” Nelson said during the recent Mitchell City Council meeting.


With the growing concern of food insecurity in America, Nelson’s gardening efforts are one way community members can help address the issue. According to Feeding America, roughly 42 million people experienced food insecurity in 2021, including 13 million children.

While food insecurity has been in the national spotlight since the pandemic disrupted the supply chains, the problem has hit home in Mitchell. At Mitchell's Salvation Army food pantry, Co-Captain Bill Middendorp said he's seen a drastic increase in people utilizing the food pantry since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in 2020.

“We’re seeing a lot of families who have never used the food pantry before, because they are in a situation where they need to right now,” Middendorp said in early 2020 when the virus prompted school closures, layoffs and business shutdowns. “We haven’t seen a large increase of home deliveries, but we have had a lot more traffic for the lunches and the food pantry.”

After a successful trial run this summer, Nelson indicated he’s considering making the fresh garden donations an annual practice.

“We’ll see what happens next year,” he said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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