The paradigm shift not only brought more guests into the pantry, but more guests are turning into volunteers. “A lot of what we can celebrate is that we’ve almost done a complete 180 with our pantry,” Henkel said. “We’ve found ways where we can still be efficient but provide dignity to our guests.”
Sherouse sees the farm as a church entity, but its primary purpose is not to increase the Sunday-morning crowd. “We’re very content to throw our resources into something that is focused on serving the community, whether or not it increases our Sunday attendance,” Sherouse said. “If that happens organically, that’s a wonderful thing.”
Yet with the rooftop farm literally being in the public eye for thousands of people in surrounding apartment, office and high-rise buildings, it is prominent advertising in itself.
“I think of it as public witness,” said Sherouse. “It has given people another point of entry to our church and community ministry and our understanding of the gospel.” Sherouse describes it as “public theology.”
Building on Metro’s success, Sherouse said he would like to see more urban farms in his neighborhood. “We think this is a replicable model,” he said. “In the grand scheme, we hope that Metro’s farm will be the initial site of many rooftop farms started by the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project.”