What is a Community Garden?
According to the American Community Garden Association, a community garden is “any piece of land gardened by a group of people”. They vary in scope, location, and what they grow. For example a community garden can:
- Be located just about anywhere (urban, rural, suburban)
- Grow a variety of vegetation (vegetables, flowers, herbs, etc.)
- Be individual or communal plots
- Be owned and operated by all types of organizations such as schools, universities, neighborhoods, hospitals and churches
Benefits of a Community Garden?
Community gardens have numerous benefits depending on the goal and scope of each garden. Benefits include:
- Promoting health and wellness
- Providing a sense of community
- Educating people about food production and nutrition
- Serving the community through food donation
- Beautifying spaces and reducing the heat island effect (occurs in built environments where the temperature is higher than in rural surroundings)
Interested in starting a community garden?
Here’s information about our community garden journey.
Garden Implementation Plan
After the garden site was determined, a subcommittee from the HSC Sustainability Committee visited two community gardens in the area. Based on what we learned from other gardens, we created guidelines, determined the layout for the space, identified local food banks to donate produce to, and prepared a 3 year strategy plan. The subcommittee became the Community Garden Steering Committee which has volunteer positions, meets regularly, and is overseen by the Office of Sustainability within Facilities Management. The strategy plan included building a portion of the total number of plots each year where by the third year, the garden space would be completely built out. We did this to ensure the garden was manageable, successful, and supported by the university and community before building the entire garden and its components. The steering committee proposed the project to the Sustainability Committee and received funding to start the project. Facilities Management gave support in the form of constructing the tool shed, arbor, rain barrels and compost bins. In addition, we received donations from various businesses throughout the city.
The garden was built on Build Day in February 2014 when over 40 volunteers came to the site to build the first 16 plots, fill them with soil, and mulch the paths. During the garden’s first year, only HSC students and staff were allowed to manage plots. The garden expanded in February 2015 by adding 11 more plots and three compost bins. Forty five volunteers including community members helped expand the garden on its second Build Day. Since the completion of the garden’s first entire year and with the addition of plots, community members are now invited be part of the community garden. Six of the current plots are being managed by community members including a local neighborhood association and a member of the Native Plant Society. In September 2015, we will have our last Build Day and build the last 8 plots. After this, the garden will include a total of 35 plots.
The HSC Community Garden holds a planting day each year where all the gardeners are encouraged to come together and plant for the season. The day includes an educational component where gardeners can learn about organic gardening techniques, pest management, gardening and health, etc. Our educators have included representatives from Tarrant County Master Gardeners and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Tarrant County.
- October 2012– Community Garden Subcommittee was established to lay the groundwork for a community garden. We researched space on campus, approached Facilities Management with a proposal, and created a campus-wide survey to assess the interest and support amongst students and staff.
• April 2013 – Community Garden Assessment Survey was administered. We received 216 responses with 97% of respondents indicating their support for the garden.
• Summer 2013 – The subcommittee completed site visits to two gardens in the region in order to learn best practices and lessons.
• October 2013 – We received funding from the Sustainability Committee in the initial amount of $8,000.
- February 2014– Forty volunteers came together on Build Day in order to build the plots, fill them with soil, and mulch the paths. Students and staff were able to start gardening. Donations were received from several businesses and organizations throughout Fort Worth.
• March 2014 – The garden’s first Planting Day included a day to plant the spring crop together and learn gardening techniques from a master gardener. Representatives from the Office of Health Promotion also gave a presentation at the garden on gardening and its health benefits.
• May 2014 – Our first donation to a local food bank, North Inter-Community Agency (NICA), occurred as part of our service to the community.
• October 2014 – The garden added picnic tables which were upcycled from used pallets as well as rain barrels in order to further accomplish our sustainability goals through the garden. The Sustainability Committee granted another $6000 to the garden to expand.
- February 2015– Forty five volunteers including community members came together to add additional plots for the garden’s second Build Day. Three compost bins were added to the garden.
• March 2015 – The garden’s second Planting Day included an educational presentation at the garden by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Tarrant County. The topics included maximizing space in a raised bed and organic pest management.
• June 2015 – Donations to NICA started for the 2015 season.
• September 2015 – Completed the build out of the garden by adding the last 8 plots with the help of 45 volunteers. This gave us a total of 35 4’x12’ plots at the garden.
• October 2015 – Painted the wall mural with the help of 13 volunteers. See the time lapse video here.
- March 2016– Third Annual Planting Day on March 22nd. We had 30 people attend, and we started off the year’s donations with a 20 lb. donation to NICA.
• July 2016 – The garden celebrates making our 200 lb. donation goal for the year. We held a celebration party for the gardeners and our partners.
• July 2016 – The Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) hosted an event here at HSC called Dig Deep, a day conference for North Texas gardeners and farmers.
• December 2016 – We completed our 3rd year in operation by donating a total of 314.75 lbs. of produce to those in need. We also diverted an estimated 3,120 lbs. of food waste from the landfill through our compost operations.
Financing the Garden
The HSC Community Garden has received most of its financing through the Sustainability Committee which receives funds from a student fee called the Environmental Services Fee. The fee is intended to advance sustainable practices on campus. The garden has asked for funds on two separate occasions and has received $14,000 from the committee. Gardeners also pay dues each year ($35 per year per plot) which generates $945 per year with 27 plots. In addition to the committee funds and dues, we have received in-kind and monetary donations from various businesses and organizations. For example, St. Emilion French Restaurant, which borders the garden, donated $500 in 2014 to support the garden. In exchange, they managed a plot in 2014 and were able to use the fresh produce in their restaurant. Below is a brief summary of what each organization donated and the estimated monetary value. We continue to ask businesses for donations as the garden grows and adds other features such as composting. We recognize contributions on a large sign at the garden, on printed material, on the garden’s website, and in a letter from the HSC Foundation. Donations are eligible for tax exemption.
- Archie’s Gardenland – compost, mulch, plant sets, fertilizer (~$1000 worth)
- Calloway’s Nursery – plant sets (~$200 worth)
- Freehling’s Tree Service – mulch (~800 worth)
- Marshall Grain Co. – seeds, plant labels (~$50 worth)
- Silver Creek Materials – soil; they have agreed to give us soil whenever we need it (~$1800 worth to date)
- St. Emilion Restaurant – $500 monetary support
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Tarrant County – plant sets (~$240 worth)
- HSC Facilities Management – labor in building the tool shed, arbor and compost bins (~$1500 worth)
Costs associated with the garden have included materials to build the garden from an empty lot. These costs include the material for the plots and tool shed such as the wood and hardware, tools and equipment in the tool shed, tractor rental, irrigation and miscellaneous supplies such as protection material for the winter, picnic benches, rain barrels, etc. Once the garden is built to its full capacity, funds from the garden dues should sustain the garden as the reoccurring expenses will be minimal. These will include replacing tools and supplies in the tool shed, purchasing fertilizer and organic pest management supplies as needed, etc.