The garden, created as a partnership between the Houston Food Bank, Urban Harvest, Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries and the Tomball community, grows fruits and vegetables to be distributed directly to people in need. Though it was first planted more than a month ago, the garden’s official dedication ceremony is on May 27 at 10 a.m. at the garden, 16811 FM 2920.
Paula Murphy, publicist for the Houston Food Bank, said direct distribution keeps the food from having to be stored, packaged and shipped, which is beneficial because it saves time and gas for everyone involved. Murphy said the Houston Food Bank is the national leader in fruit and vegetable distribution.
Every bit of food produced by the garden will go to those in need in the Tomball community.
The garden is on the property of Southwinds Baptist Church. Murphy said the tract of land was not in use, so it was donated for the garden. She said the church also plans to revamp its water well specifically for the garden and wire it for electricity as well.
Murphy said the inspiration to create the garden came from John Kreger, a food resourcer at Houston Food Bank. Kreger said he got the idea to grow a garden last summer after taking a class through Urban Harvest, a nonprofit organization that strives to use gardens to improve quality of life in the greater Houston area.
Kreger said he grew up on a farm, so he has a heart for growing fresh foods, and because he lives in Tomball now he felt it was the best place to start the program. Eventually, he said, the goal is to put gardens in each of the 18 counties the Houston Food Bank serves.
He said he will measure the success of the garden by the level of community involvement. Donations to establish the garden have come from Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, H-E-B grocery, Micro Flow Industries and other local businesses and clubs.
The Tomball community has done a lot for the project so far, he said, but the hardest part will be keeping it maintained.
“We really need people who are interested in gardening to help with this,” he said.
The way he said he would like to see the garden work is for volunteers to pick the produce on Tuesday and Friday mornings, the only days that the Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries office is open. From there, he would like the produce taken directly to the ministry so it could be distributed fresh that day.
Volunteering to pick the produce those mornings is not the only way people can help, however. Kreger said he would like all local gardeners to give their excess produce to the project rather than letting it go bad or throwing it away.
Phoebe Lake, a Texas certified nursery professional who works at Arbor Gate Nursery, is in charge of maintaining the garden. She said she would like to see the garden expand beyond the eight 4-foot by 16-foot beds it currently consists of. Right now, however, the garden is unable to move beyond its current size due to maintenance costs. This is why, she said, volunteers of every skill set are necessary for the garden to grow.
“We’d like to build a fence and put up a sign in front of it, and also maybe have a web site, so we’d like people with those skills to help out as well,” she said. “And also we just need cold, hard cash.”
Even people in wheelchairs may volunteer to help in the garden, Lake said, as cinder blocks have been put in place to elevate the garden approximately two and one-half feet.
Kreger said the garden provides many benefits to the Tomball community: produce, community involvement and education. He said he hopes local school districts get involved in the garden so children can be educated not only about hunger but about how the food they see in grocery stores gets put on the shelves.
Lake said that she would like to see the garden get to the point where even the clients receiving the food from the ministry will help grow their own produce in the garden.
All produce will be grown as organically as possible, Lake said, not only because it’s a current trend but also so that when children come to visit they are not exposed to all the chemicals.
Lake said she was eager to get involved in the project once it was underway.
“Our family has done a lot of traveling and gone on a lot of mission trips and through our church and faith have really enjoyed helping the less fortunate,” she said. “The best part of this is that you don’t have to travel anywhere to help. This is just local people helping other local people.”
Lake said she is grateful to all the people who have helped out so far–especially because people have only known about the garden by word of mouth–but is desperate need of more volunteers.
“This is more than just a donation garden,” she said. “This is a garden project that exemplifies community. This is community in the truest sense of the word.”