By June Naylor
Photos by Meda Kessler
It doesn’t take a big plot of land to grow an abundance of food. Community gardens in the 107 feed its members and others, including those in need. We check out two gardens, along with a couple of options for cooking classes.
UNT Health Science Center Community Garden
Established five years ago, the medical school’s community garden next door to Saint-Emilion on 7th Street has become so popular that there’s a waiting list for space. Built by volunteer students and employees at the university, the garden came to be after a sustainability committee survey found that many were in favor of the project. Funded by that committee and donations, the garden began with 16 raised beds measuring 12 feet by 4 feet and has grown to include 35 plots and several compost bins. Some 40 to 45 gardeners come from student, faculty and employee populations, as well as the surrounding community and from a new partnership with the Lena Pope Home. Right now, you’ll see the last stages of greens from winter planting, along with tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and plenty of herbs, plus okra, a popular summer crop. One plot is dedicated to native plants known to attract desirable pollinators, says Sandy Bauman, who works in facilities management at the campus, and serves as sustainability coordinator and garden manager. Gardeners must donate 25 percent of their crop to a student pantry on campus and to the Northside Inter-Community Agency food pantry; 1,000 pounds has been given away so far. “It’s a great project, well-supported by the community and the university, and it’s great for students to learn how to grow their own food,” Bauman says. Find the garden at 3621 W. 7th St.; inquire about volunteering or joining the wait list for a plot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Saints’ Episcopal Church Community Garden
The botanically rich corner of Dexter Avenue and Pentecost Street is hosted by All Saints’ Episcopal Church, which owns the lot across from the main church building. At the garden’s heart is a small wooden church, built by architect Scott Rector, a church member who created the miniature building to serve as a float in the Crestline Labor Day parade. When storing it posed a problem, Rector suggested perching it on the then-vacant lot as a focal point for a community garden that the neighborhood could enjoy. Wife Caren Rector and fellow members joined Scott in the effort, completing the garden in 2017 with raised beds, an irrigation system and a water feature with fountains. Caren continues to maintain the decorative plantings that line the sidewalk, while church members and any interested neighbors grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Altogether, there are 38 beds measuring 4 feet by 4 feet, maintained by individuals, families and groups. Lockers are on-site, too, for gardeners wishing to store their tools. The Rev. Melanie Barbarito, an assisting priest at All Saints’, says gardeners generally keep the produce or share with others. “It’s a lot of fun, and some people just bring chairs to sit and enjoy the garden,” she says. Rector notes that it brings neighbors together: “A vacant lot became a community park and gathering place. It’s nice to see people stop by with their kids or dogs to visit the garden on their evening walks.” Beds are available; the annual fee is $30 for the first one and $15 each thereafter. Call 817-732-1424 for details.
Botanical Research Institute of Texas
BRIT teams up with the neighboring Fort Worth Botanic Garden to offer classes and workshops in food, health and wellness, including one May 18 and 19 on herbal oils, vinegars and salad dressings. The two-hour afternoon class at BRIT, 1700 University Drive, includes a discussion on uses for locally grown herbs, and teaches you how to expand your recipe repertoire beyond the usual suspects. Master gardener and herb specialist Rita Hottel leads this session, which costs $30 for BRIT members and $35 otherwise. Find class details and registration information at brit.org; click on education and adult education classes and workshops.
Tarrant Area Food Bank
In addition to maintaining a learning garden on the west side of town at Ridglea Christian Church (food grown here is donated to food pantries), the TAFB also facilitates its Kindred Spirits Kitchen Garden at the food bank headquarters. It works in tandem with the Kitchen Garden Cooking School Harvest Series, a free monthly cooking program led by the school’s nutrition services team. Usually offered the first Wednesday evening of each month, the 90-minute session covers instruction on how to establish and keep a backyard garden and which kinds of vegetables and fruits grow well here. Even better, a chef teaches you how to make three different dishes with a particular ingredient, each remarkably tasty but easy to make. You’ll learn about flavor profiles and nutrition, sample the dishes and take home recipes. Upcoming class topics include figs, June 5; green beans, July 3; and okra, Aug. 7. Find the TAFB demonstration kitchen at 2525 Cullen St.; sign up for classes at eventbrite.com by searching for Tarrant Area Food Bank and clicking on Kitchen Garden Cooking School Harvest Series.