Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Largest Community Garden in the US.

Largest Community Garden in the US

The Shiloh Field Community Garden just happens to be in Denton, TX where my son and his family are living.  Today we toured it (11/23/16) and talked to the founder, Gene Gumfory. This garden has been open for seven years and they have learned a lot, most of which is very relevant for the Central Urban Farm in Anchorage, especially since both gardens are on church property.

The Shiloh Field Community Garden prides itself on being a teaching, sharing and growing garden.  They welcome everyone.  There are 159 individual 15x15 garden plots for anyone to use for free.  You simply have to register each year.  There are no fences around the garden, but each person can add fences to his/her own plot.  It is open 24/7 so that gardeners can come and tend their gardens as they need to.  Water is free and is supplied by the church, as are wood chips. However, they don’t allow sprinklers.

Gardeners are encouraged to use organic fertilizer, but that is not supplied by the garden. 

Here is the sign that is up at the 
entry of the garden.

Across from the private plots they have a large orchard with pecan, pear, plum trees. Toward the back of the acerage is another type of community garden.  It relies on the community, church members, students from the two universities located in Denton, K-12 studetns and even some court-ordered community service volunteers to grow, harvest and weed the gardens.  Each Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at 8am before the heat begins, they start arriving.  They all must sign up in order to work there.  Homeless or hungry people are encouraged to sign up as well to work side by side learning with the more experienced volunteers.  During harvest season at least, each volunteer is allowed to take home his/her own food for that night’s dinner. 

To access free fertilizer, they now have horse farms delivering to them directly as well as the tree companies.  In the fall, they put out an all call for raked leaves and people just bring them.  They also have all of their chicken manure.  The long rows of compost mixes right there on site and stays very hot all year. 

The garden also boasts 3 high tunnels for winter growing, 15-20 doz eggs a day, honey, blackberries and grapes.  All of the extra food is shared with many, many organizations who feed the poor.  In Denton 1 in 5 persons lives below the poverty level. 

Gene recommends a committee of 4 or 5 to run the garden, which is not what he has.  He is trying to manage it himself.  He also recommends that every community garden organizer join the American Community Garden Association.  They have lots of ideas there, he told me. 

I left with lots of ideas---especially signage. 

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