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Arlington TX: New Community Garden

  • Subject: [cg] Arlington TX: New Community Garden
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2006 13:03:56 -0500

Community garden takes root
Like a seed pressed gently into the earth, Arlington's first community garden
has been quietly planted outside the cafeteria of St. Matthew Catholic Church
on New York Avenue.
Driving past the church, you would hardly notice the garden. You might even
have a hard time finding it if you go to the church to see it.
The garden is tucked in the cafeteria's courtyard, and only the northern edges
of six of the 11 beds can be seen from the road. It is a small garden - each
bed is 10 feet by 4 feet - but big plans rest on what might grow there.
"This was just to get our feet wet," said Stephen Smith, president of
Community Gardens of Arlington, who worked with the church to create the
garden. "If we could add just one garden per year, we would be ecstatic."
The idea for the garden sprouted when Smith and his wife, Jean-Marie, visited
a community garden in Grapevine. The idea blossomed after they visited
Coppell, a city with two community gardens, 101 plots and more than 1,200
volunteer gardeners.
"In Coppell, we saw everybody working together," Jean-Marie Smith said. "They
were having a great time, learning something and producing things."
In September 2004, the Smiths formed Community Gardens of Arlington and
approached the Parks and Recreation Department with the intention of starting
a garden on city property.
"The parks board unanimously agreed it was a good idea," said Gordon
Robertson, parks planning manager. The board approved a location at Bob Cooke
Park in east Arlington.
But meeting the city's standards for what can be built on park property proved
too expensive. After its grant proposal to National Semiconductor failed,
Community Gardens decided to go a different direction.
One member of the group was a congregant at St. Matthew, which was open to the
idea of a garden.
"They wanted a small demonstration garden, and we provide the land and the
water," said Linda Lawler, officer manager at St. Matthew. "I think it's going
to be a good start to their program."
The plan is to harvest the vegetables each Saturday and give them to the St.
Vincent de Paul Society food pantry at the church.
This is the same principle upon which the Coppell Community Garden works.
Amanda Vanhoozier, the community programs supervisor in Coppell, says fresh
produce takes a food pantry to a higher level of service.
She has seen the Coppell garden transform the people who dig in its soil.
"The garden has brought people together who normally would not come together,"
Vanhoozier said. "And it is a great asset for kids, a way to bring them into a
supportive environment. The garden is the vehicle - community development is
what's going on."
Two questions people might have about the project are: Why is a community
garden on private property? And in a city of more than 350,000 people, is this
really the first community garden?
"It's typical for community gardens to be on private property," said John
Darling, acting secretary for Community Gardens of Arlington. "Community
gardens are rooted in social activism - citizens taking matters into their own
Robertson said he believes that this is the first community garden in
Arlington, and Smith, who spent 18 months making the garden a reality,
understands why.
"You can't imagine how hard it was to set up an organization for gardening,"
Smith said. "All we wanted to do was dig."
The garden at St. Matthew was dedicated March 11. And like the garden itself,
the crowd was small: 15 people attended.
But the success of the garden isn't about the number of people who participate
or even the vegetables, Darling said.
"Growing vegetables is important," he said, "but the sense of community, in an
act that is constructive, has to be just as important."

IN THE KNOW Digging in
Community Gardens of Arlington still had four beds available for planting as
of Thursday.
Contact: Stephen Smith, (817) 275-7469 or buggy188@juno.com
The annual fee is $30.
Gardeners must comply with organic-gardening principles.
For more information about community gardens:
American Community Gardening Association, www.communitygarden.org/links.php
Texas Garden Clubs, www.texasgardenclubs.org
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