Future Garden Days may be in the works.
By Wally Perez
At least 18 volunteers, including members of Students for Environmental Awareness, got their hands dirty and their thumbs green doing tasks in the community garden Saturday at EcoCentro.
Whether the task was pulling weeds, harvesting crops or moving mulch, volunteers primped the garden during the first Garden Day.
The project is a partnership between EcoCentro and the Green Spaces Alliance, a local nonprofit whose mission is to sustain the natural environment and enhance urban spaces through conservation, community engagement and education.
Michelle Gorham, community gardens program manager at Green Spaces, was helping out and promoting the garden, whose seed was planted two to three years ago as the two groups brainstormed ideas.
“It took a while, but it’s finally coming together, and all that is being done here is a win-win situation for us and them,” Gorham said.
The garden is adjacent to EcoCentro, northeast of the building, and started in spring 2015.
The garden is about 3,000 square feet of demonstration beds, which include tomatoes, asparagus, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.
Community members plant the vegetables and the harvest is distributed to them accordingly.
Steven Lewis, director of the service, trade and industry center, said the garden demonstrates local production. “We want to show and facilitate local food production and the idea of producing in a close vicinity to where it’s consumed,” Lewis said.
In the earlier hours of the day, volunteers were seen harvesting okra and cleaning up the existing beds.
Charles Sumerset, system analyst at Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital, had been harvesting and trimming stalks of okra 2-3 feet tall.
Sumerset lives nearby and learned about Garden Day through the Tobin Hill Community Association.
“I’m hoping to get involved with the garden here and plant some of my own vegetables in the future,” Sumerset said. “I’m from Georgia, so I’ve enjoyed growing my own food and plants, which I’ve found hard to accomplish here. If I intend to use the garden, I want to do my part, which is why I’m helping out today.”
Other folks loaded concrete slabs onto a tractor for a berm, an elevated area that gradually slopes downward, creating a divider for a garden bed.
Environmental science sophomore Jess Mayes thanked EcoCentro for days like this. “They’ve helped my ideas become a reality, and it’s been a catalyst for me.”
Mayes described a permaculture technique that used handmade pipes for sub irrigation they had implemented into one of their future garden beds in the center of the garden.
“We’ve created a swale, which is basically a ditch that will harvest water and concentrate underneath the area on the side of the bed,” Mayes said. “We then laid large pieces of logs underneath the soil, which will absorb the water and distribute it among the roots and soil.”
Mayes and crew will add a worm compost tea to break down the soil and wood and boost microbiological activity with bacteria and fungi.
Throughout the morning, volunteers took breaks and did stretching exercises led by Paul Rezaei, a personal trainer and founder of Work Out Help Out, a nonprofit.
Work Out Help Out pairs exercising and volunteer work.
“I had been a personal trainer for a while when I realized I could combine workout routines and stretches with actual work,” Rezaei said.
His volunteers visit events that include physical labor, nonprofit work or tasks for the elderly and incorporate a gym-style workout. Rezaei brought about five volunteers to help while promoting proper stretching techniques. He encouraged potential volunteers to visit www.meetup.com/Fit-Community-in-San-Antonio/members/76462142/.
As the day progressed, volunteers were moving mulch with wheelbarrows, and some were drilling holes into future irrigation pipes.
Lisa Cervantes, SEA president and environmental science sophomore, talked about the importance of the garden and what it represents.
Participating in the garden shows volunteers techniques they can take back to their homes, she said.
“Something available to our campus is important; we’re so displaced from these practices due to the convenience of grocery stores that we forget about self-sustaining lifestyles,” Cervantes said. “People complain that eating healthy is expensive, but the fact is they don’t consider growing as an option.”
For information, call Lewis at 210-486-9253.