In south Fort Worth, a community garden is feeding 30 families. To help a Bhutanese refugee community supplement their diets with healthy, homegrown vegetables, the Alta Mesa Church of Christ’s Neighborhood Needs ministry, in cooperation with the Tarrant Area Food Bank and Tarrant County Public Health, donated land, resources and education to organize and start the garden near a busy residential and commercial intersection. Just yards away from the asphalt, bees were buzzing from bloom to bloom in raised garden beds and communal plots kept by a transplanted community of Fort Worth residents who visit the garden daily to water, weed and harvest the fruit of their labors. The garden boasts a growing waiting list of families eager to get their hands in the soil.
Krishna, a member of the gardening community for the last year and a half, was watering his and other neatly tended garden plots, all of which were crowded with new and mature plants. “We get about 6 pounds of vegetables a week, depending on the growing season,” explained Krishna as he gently sprayed his plot. Peppers, greens, tomatoes, eggplant and broccoli in various stages of development filled his raised cinder block bed of vegetables.
Obviously pleased with the garden’s progress, Katy Rudd, Community Garden Coordinator for the Tarrant Area Food Bank, smiled as she pointed out a community plot brimming with sweet potatoes, onions and edged with flowers. In the last two years, she’s helped establish twenty similar community gardens in Fort Worth. “It takes more than you’d think to keep a garden like this going,” she explained. “Besides the soil, compost, tools and water, the key elements are committed people, gardening education and strong leadership,” she pointed out. “You’d be surprised at how much conflict management is required when you’re working with a community,” she winked.
The tidy garden is tended by a community of both Hindu and Christian families who put food on their tables from the well-tended plots. “Families with more children manage two plots,” Rudd added. “A local expert gardener and church member, Dewitt Mahanay, trained this community how to garden in the Texas climate and they were urged to train others to sustain it.” Rudd added how the chief reason community gardens fail is from a lack of leadership, not a water shortage or poor soil. “All of those things can be taken care of,” she said. “The human element is the key.”