Conference offers inspiration and strategy for community gardeners

By Betsy Friauf

Jacob Fripp is demonstrating the bucket drip irrigation system


In Texas, a traditionally agricultural state, food insecurity is a threat to 17 percent of the population. Even thriving cities, including Fort Worth, are riddled with food deserts.

But a dedicated group is working to solve this. Its members range from policy experts to urban farming leaders to everyday gardeners. A Metroplex core group met recently on the UNTHSC campus at the Dig Deep Conference for Growers, and shared inspiration and strategy. The conference was organized by the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

“Creating more small family farms is the way to feed everyone,” said Micheline Hynes, TAFB Nutrition Services Manager.

In a presentation on how to start a community garden, UNTHSC Sustainability Coordinator Sandy Bauman shared how the campus’ garden started with collaboration, leadership endorsement and community support. A survey and face-to-face conversations showed the need and enthusiasm for a garden.  UNTHSC Operations leadership provided a quarter-acre of land, labor and irrigation. Community partners contributed in-kind materials such as plants. And a small army of volunteers built the garden.

“Aligning your garden’s mission with the mission of your leadership is crucial,” Bauman said. For UNTHSC, that mission is creating a healthier community, and today the garden donates hundreds of pounds of fresh organic produce to a food pantry.

Fort Worth has many assets in the campaign for food justice, said Dave Aftandilian, who leads the Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture Working Group of the Tarrant County Food Policy Council. An Associate Professor of Anthropology at Texas Christian University, his list includes these:

  • Elders with garden knowledge.
  • City ordinances encouraging neighborhood farmers markets and coordination of local food production and distribution, such as mobile markets and produce carts.
  • Lower fees to start a produce cart than an ice cream cart.

The conference also featured hands-on methods to increase garden yields, including drip-bucket irrigation. Demonstrated by Jacob Fripp, this method is inexpensive, efficient and used in many developing countries—requiring little more than a 5-gallon bucket, drip tubing and a repurposed filter such as an old shirt or burlap bag.

Learn more about the UNTHSC Community Garden or call 817-735-2451.

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