The Eden Gardens Story
how it all began
by Tim Lovelace
While praying and fasting in early January 2012, Nancy and I received a vision from heaven of a base for Go To Nations, GloDev, a large Training Center, dormitories and prototypes of development projects being used all over the world. It was so real it overwhelmed us; so, we agreed to wait for confirmation before telling anyone. Three weeks later we received an email from Frank Barnes, during one of the sickest times of his life. He had received an open vision from heaven while half asleep and half awake. He wrote almost verbatim, and with even more detail, the exact vision that Nancy and had both seen together. So, I began praying and looking for land near Jacksonville, which continued for four years.
In the fall that year, we visited Conner’s A-Maizing Acres for their corn maze in Callahan, north of Jacksonville, FL. As I was sitting on the park swing having lunch, I heard a clear voice saying that I should partner with the Conners and build an Aquaponic greenhouse on their farm. I found the owners, Mr. Eddie and Betty Jean Conner and mentioned my dream to them. They almost cried as they confirmed that it had also been a dream of theirs for several years. So in the Fall of 2013, we built a greenhouse using aquaponics.
We progressed with the new greenhouse and learned more about sustainable microfarming. Seeing the need in the U.S., we started a training program for the U.S. called North Florida Aquaponics. We started training others in sustainable farming and took the training to several countries and began developing solutions to help the poor help themselves. The more we learned of the food insecurity in the U.S., the more convinced we became that we needed our own land to expand and create viable solutions. I then started looking for land in Nassau County as the cost was more affordable than in Duval County where Jacksonville is located.
In October of 2014, I felt the Lord wanted us to step out in faith and sell our home of 15 years in preparation for buying land. I had mentioned it to Nancy on a couple occasions. The last time, she asked me to give her a few days to pray about it. On the third day, she heard the Lord say, “You can stay here and I’ll continue to provide for you, but this is as far as you go.” She knew immediately what that meant- “No, to the vision God had given us for GTN and GloDev”. It all would stop there. So she asked the Lord, “When do we list the house?” and He gave her a date in April 2015 to have it ready before the next GTN Leadership Development Forum.
We began to make preparations to sell our home and scheduled multiple yard sales with times to have certain things done by. We had it appraised and it was not as good as we had hoped, but we trusted the Lord’s prompting and moved ahead. We put up the ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign and made our own fliers. One day a realtor who had a house listed down the street stopped to talk to Nancy about having a big Open House a couple Saturdays away. She said she would advertise for us on the MLS and do all the marketing, thinking that more people would come if there were three houses on the same street having an Open House, including the one across the street from us. We agreed and left to visit our youngest daughter in VA. While there, the Lord spoke spontaneously to Nancy that we would meet our buyers at the Open House.
That following Saturday a.m., we all but danced in anticipation of meeting our buyer. Family after family came through and then finally, the buyers arrived at our door step. They were local pastors who were retired Air Force and had been renting a house a few streets away for the past couple years. They had driven by our home many times, praying to someday purchase it! We prayed together in the foyer as they were leaving and the presence of God filled our foyer. We all had goose bumps! They called the next a.m. and had already been preapproved at their bank. Within days they asked to come over to make an offer at full purchase if we would pay their closing costs. We agreed and a Realtor friend helped us with the contract pro-bono. Nancy talked to their banker who said they were good to go.
A few weeks later they phoned and said there was a problem that prevented them from closing in June as planned and must postpone until November! Not sure what to do, we put the ‘For Sale’ sign back in the yard with little activity. Mid-July, Nancy called the buyers, and they said they still wanted our home and were praying it didn’t sell until they were ready. Nancy laughed and told the wife that we needed to get into agreement. So, we took down the ‘For Sale’ sign and got our faith with theirs.
November came and they were still waiting to hear from the bank. The house appraised for $5,000 more than the sale price and the loan was finally approved. We closed on December 18, 2015! We had a very unusual closing at the title company where we joined together in prayer and celebrated God’s story that we were living! The title officer said he had never seen anything like it!
Two weeks before closing, we were left with finding a quick place to move into. After looking at numerous apartments that were major downsizing for more than our house payment had been, we finally found an apartment that was doable but not great. As I was about to pay the deposit on the website, I heard the Lord say, “wait”. I closed my laptop and went to bed. The next morning early, I felt the Lord say to look for a condo for rent by owner. I opened my laptop and within a few minutes, there it was! A spacious 3-bedroom condo in a gated community with a two car garage for less than the 2 bedroom apartment we were about to get! It would become our place of refuge as we continued searching for land.
Meanwhile, back at Conner’s farm, two businessmen visited our microfarm for a tour. One of them was in the Rotary Club of Jacksonville. He said they offered grants for what I was doing and that I should apply. I got on the Rotary website that night and discovered that the grant was for Duval County and my current need was in Nassau County. A month before, I had started helping a man who had attended my 5-day Aquaponics class. He and his wife had purchased 13 acres of land on Garden Street in Jacksonville with a similar vision as mine. I told them about the grant and they wanted to partner. I would receive the grant for their farm since it was located just inside the city and Duval County. I planned to sow into their project for two years if we got the grant. The deadline for new applications was just two weeks away; so I spent the next few days filling out the application and got it turned in just in time
Soon the Rotary Club contacted me and said I was in the final selection process. I continued conducting training classes at Conner’s Farm while helping the folks on Garden Street. The Rotary Club contacted me again to make a final “pitch” in person for the grant, along with 8 other finalists. I took my 5-minute shot and two days later, discovered that I got the grant! While on vacation with my family at Myrtle Beach the week before I was to formally receive the Rotary Club grant that Monday, I received a disturbing email from the folks on Garden Street. They were dissolving the partnership and wanted nothing to do with the Rotary Club as they had believed false information as to the integrity of the Rotary Club. I then asked the Lord, “What do I do now?” I phoned the Board of Directors for GloDev to get their council about this sudden development. They all agreed that it was time to find and purchase land which we had been praying for and to use this grant to build the first greenhouse for GloDev.
I immediately got on the Internet and began searching for land in Duval County. I had been looking previously only in Nassau County because the price per acre was almost double the land in Duval County. I removed all the filters from the search so I could see every listing. I had been looking for only 30 acres since that was the minimum I felt we could get by with for the vision. As I began the search a featured listing popped up and it was 147 acres on Garden Street for $487,000! This property was just down the street from the place where I had just lost the partnership! I called Nancy over to have a look and she was very excited. We had looked at numerous listings for several years and nothing really stood out to us as this one.
On Sunday we returned home from vacation and I phoned the Rotary Grant Council leader and informed him of the news. He was very upset about the last minute change as the whole grant had been issued around the needs in Dinsmore, the area of Jacksonville where Garden Street is located. I told him that I had another option, but he insisted that he answered to the council and could not make a decision so quickly. I assured him that I would find my own land before the end of August, which was the deadline for receiving funds for the grant. He said that I should just come on and receive the cardboard check on Monday, the next day, so as not to disrupt the agenda and we would discuss the matter later.
The next a.m. the guy from Rotary phoned early and offered his support and asked me, “Can you guarantee that you will have your own property by the end of August?” I told him that we would. It was obviously by faith that I agreed, as I had no idea how but I knew this was God. We went to the Rotary meeting and accepted the grant and I smiled for pictures with the cardboard check. I presented the project that I had previously researched for the grant which targeted the poor in the Dinsmore Area of NW Jacksonville. Everyone was very excited to hear about a community farm that would reach the poor in North Florida.
We decided to drive out and have a look at the land following the Rotary luncheon… even though it was WAY outside our budget. When we arrived at the gate we were immediately greeted by the presence of the Lord! We could not go past the gate and fence but we were able to see how incredibly beautiful it was. It was then that I heard the Lord say, “I am giving you this land!” I teared up as I told Nancy, and she was very moved as well. As we started to pull out and leave, Nancy asked “What are we going to do with all this land?” I laughed and said, “I don’t know, but obviously God has a bigger plan than we do”.
We were scheduled to fly out for three weeks of work in the Philippines and Thailand that Wednesday, so we contacted the realtor for an appointment. We went out and walked the property with the realtor. When we returned, we met with the realtor again and made an offer for owner financing. The owner agreed, but the children did not. So, we had to back up and punt. We prayed and made a cash offer of $450,000 to close on August 31st, which was the last day allowed by the Rotary Grant. You see, even though we had near perfect credit, we couldn’t acquire a private loan like that and no banks were offering farm loans of this nature. So, cash was our only option!
While negotiating the contract, we were in NC to speak at a missions weekend at Joy Church. We set a goal to raise a minimum of $50,000 to jumpstart the project before we returned to Jacksonville, almost as a confirmation that we had really heard from God that this was our land. During our meetings, the vision continued to unfold as we shared how God had moved with some of our closest friends. We had so many supernatural meetings with partners like never before! In one week, the Lord had given us the first $50,000! We were pumped then and felt the wind in our sails.
When we returned to Florida, the sellers countered asking for a $20,000 non-refundable deposit in order to hold the property for 120 days while we raised the money. We prayed and really felt like this was God but that we were to put $20,000 of our own money on the line. So, we agreed that the deposit would become non-refundable after 30 days of due diligence work to understand what we were buying and to confirm that the land was in good shape. Nancy and I took many people to the property during the month of May to get their input and to do work. We received council from friends in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences in order to do our due diligence. What a learning curve we were on!
God had already given us the vision for the property and said to name it “Eden Gardens”, which would be located on Garden Street. The name would represent sustainable farming, family, an oasis of peace and a place for meeting and walking with God. The summer was a whirlwind of itinerating, taking people to the property, writing letters, emails, visiting people one on one and lots of phone calls in an effort to raise the funds to close on August 31st.
As the summer’s end was approaching, GloDev’s Board of Directors encouraged us to try to have a dual closing, surveying what land GloDev needed for the overall vision and for us to purchase the remainder rather than putting all of our savings into the property for GloDev. So, on August 31st, 2016, GloDev closed with $368,000 cash ($150,000 of which was in private loans) for 120 acres for GloDev, Eden Gardens and Go To Nations, and we purchased 26 acres from the sale of our home the year before. $35,000 of the loans have already been paid back. What a miracle it all has been, how God met us as we totally trusted Him to give us the land!
Since closing, we have harvested approx. 45 acres of pine trees to clear the areas for the development of the farm, which consists of 6 acres for 10 commercial greenhouses, 14 acres of orchards, 4 acres of vineyards, a 10-acre community farm, 4 acres for the campground, a 6 acre area for 50 tiny homes and RV hook ups, and an 8 acre campus for GTN and GloDev offices, a conference center and lodge. We will also have a 16-acre lake for Eden Gardens and a 7-acre lake for us personally. The total property has a combined 60 acres of wetland, which will provide a natural environment for hiking trails and primitive tent camping. We have estimated a total buildout cost of the farm, the warehouse, Farmer’s Market, parking and bathroom facilities of $1,400,000 over 4-5 years. We recently paid the taxes on the new property and the tax value was $1,343,000! The land is already worth 3 times what we paid!
We had our land dedication ceremony on October 15th, 2016, with 100 people present and the Rotary Club presented the $20,000 grant to sponsor the first greenhouse. This project has already rallied so many people from all walks of life and church denominations. The prayers, financial support and physical help of hundreds of friends have brought us this far. We’ve had a dozen volunteer work days and the community is rallying to clear and prepare the property for building the farm. We will be building the first greenhouse in March and planting the first orchard this spring 2017. The GloDev staff is growing with GTN missionaries, and we are working hard to build the strategy for networking the churches and community to reach and transform our city, writing grants and moving forward one day at a time. Come see this great work that God is doing!