Community Garden teaches and serves

Kevin Holamon | Brownwood Bulletin kevin.holamon@brownwodbulletin.com
Area residents gathered at the Brownwood Area Community Garden Saturday morning to help with the donation plots and learn how to properly garden for the best outcome. Volunteers planted two varieties of cabbage in this raised bed, where onions, lettuce, and herbs are already growing.

With the arrival of spring and the high cost of fresh produce, some may be contemplating the idea of gardening. Whether for fun or utility, gardening is a rewarding experience.

For those without the space for a home garden, there is the Brownwood Area Community Garden. Since its opening in 2010, the BACG has exceeded 3,000 pounds of produce each year, with more than half donated to area programs such as the Salvation Army Loaves and Fishes kitchen. The remainder was harvested by individuals who lease space for personal consumption.

In 2009, Central Texas Opportunities obtained a grant for the construction of the garden and operating expenses for the first year. Since then, the garden has continued operation through donations, volunteer labor, and cooperation with Central Texas Opportunities and the Brownwood Housing Authority.

The garden contains 67 raised beds, 30 of which are dedicated for lease by individuals. The other 37 plots are worked and managed by the Garden Coordinator, Daniel Graham, and volunteers, the product of which is donated to fight hunger.

The informational flyer explains the mission of the The Brownwood Area Community as "a non-profit organization dedicated to: Growing produce for direct donation to local charities (the primary focus), providing space for individuals to grow their own food, teaching about organic gardening, and training people of all ages in Urban Sustainable Agriculture."

To those ends, the BACG has only one, part-time, paid employee. The garden keeps Graham busy, so he is currently conducting an 11 week training program in Garden Leadership, hoping to generate competent volunteers who can manage the garden in his absence and to allow the garden to remain open more days and for longer hours.

Lease spaces are available for either a nine or twelve month term. The standard rates are $45 and $50, respectively. Rates for residents of the Brownwood Housing Authority are discounted to $20 and $25. The yearly leases run from March 1 to February 28 and the shorter term is from March 1 to November 30.

Participation in the program requires gardeners to maintain their assigned plots and to help with maintaining the common areas, commit to five hours of volunteer labor per year, maintain crops throughout the year by succession planting, to harvest promptly, and to weigh and record all harvests. Other rules and requirements apply and are explained in the application.

All activities follow the guidelines for organic gardening, set out by the Texas Department of Agriculture, which are reviewable at www.agr.state.tx.us.

A unique aspect of the garden is the use of rain water captured from rooftop runoff, which is stored in two large containers. To further conserve water, the drip irrigation system is managed by zoning and automation.

The BACG provides the space, water, access to tools, mulch, compost, amendments, information, and a selection of seeds and transplants, as available. 

The garden also provides opportunities for civic and church group projects, as well as being eligible for those required to attain Community Services hours.

Interested persons are welcome to visit the second and fourth Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The garden is located at the southwest portion of the Brownwood Housing Authority property, at 1514 Dublin St. Volunteers are encouraged to attend during those times, as well. Donations of any amount, in cash or needed gardening equipment, are always accepted.

For more information call (325)641-9029, visit the garden's Facebook page, or email bac_garden@yahoo.com.