Tarleton prepares to plant new Community Gardens

Rachel Tuggle

STEPHENVILLE (March 15, 2017) – Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, Tarleton State University will plant two new community gardens this spring. One will be at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center and the other will be on Airport Road in Stephenville.

“There are lots of community gardens around the country, and there are a couple up in Stephenville running already,” Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center resident director and Tarleton professor Dr. Don Cawthon said. “They are a little bit more for restricted communities. So we are trying to expand the effort here in Stephenville.”

The garden at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center will mainly be used by Erath County Extension Agents for outreach and adult education. The second garden will be evolving over the next year as Tarleton establishes it. This garden is on city of Stephenville property and will be maintained by the university this year.

“We will manage it for the city and for the residents,” Cawthon said. “Then, as crops start becoming available, we will start putting out announcements or news releases.”

Depending on the type of plants, some crops will be planted this month while others will be planted in late April or May.

“We will be irrigating the city site,” Cawthon said. “We are going to go as organic as we possibly can. The only exception may be the use of some commercially available fertilizers to make sure the plants have the opportunity to grow and produce.”

Cawthon said that they will not be using any herbicides, weed killers, insecticides or fungicides.

“We will have to be tolerant of some insect activity and that sort of thing, because going organic is never 100 percent perfect,” Cawthon said.

After this year, the community garden will be run by a model used in cities such as Austin. People will be allowed to “purchase” a small portion of the garden, and they will grow whatever crops they wish on the purchased plot.

“The city is working on developing a set of rules and regulations [for those purchasing plots],” Cawthon said.

Both of these gardens are part of the “Green Thumbs, Green Plates and Green Attitudes for a Well-Fed Future” project, which is funded by a USDA grant and is composed of three parts. The two parts besides the community gardens are eating healthy and reducing food waste.

“Tarleton specifically is serving as the lead institution,” Cawthon said. “It also includes [Texas A&M Research & Extension Center] and AgriLife extension at the county office. So we are all working together to bring this to a conclusion over the next couple of years.”

Also, as part of the grant project, Tarleton is working with the Oakdale United Methodist Church and its community garden. They have also established a community garden for the Better Breathers Club with Harris-Methodist Hospital.

“In that case, it’s  a small raised bed garden, and their clients that come to that facility have an opportunity to go out and do a little work in it as they want to and harvest some of the produce,” Cawthon said.

If interested in volunteering in the new community garden, contact Cawthon at cawthon@tarleton.edu.


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