Task force creates community garden for city

University students, staff members and Fort Worth residents are participating in the creation of a community garden in the Fairmount Historic District as part of the Fort Worth Sustainability Task Force, a group created in January to investigate ways to ensure that the city infrastructure and resources can keep up with city growth.

The first community garden, located at Fifth Avenue and West Maddox Avenue, is less than three miles from campus.

According to the City of Fort Worth’s Web site, the community garden is a small part of phase one of the task force. Phase one focuses on sustainable development and addresses action the community can take to make new and renovated construction more sustainable. The Web site lists other initiatives of phase one including environmental education, recycling promotional campaigns and partnership with public transportation systems.

Susan Harper, a Fairmount resident and the community garden manager, said community gardens can improve the lives of residents by promoting healthy diets and fostering a sense of community. Volunteers are on track to complete the garden by Thursday and hope to have a grand opening around April 23.

Community members can lease plots in the garden for $35 annually. Plot owners are free to grow any organic produce for their own consumption or to donate to the community, she said.

Phase two and three of the task force focus on improving practices at city facilities and businesses and educating residents on how to make changes at home to help achieve the goal of a sustainable city.

Will Stallworth, associate vice chancellor for facilities, is a member of the Sustainability Task Force as the TCU representative. He said the task force is structured to develop suggested goals and objectives for the entire community.

He said it is important for TCU to be represented in the task force because the university is part of the greater community.

Tom Calvert-Rosenberger, a sophomore environmental science major and co-president of the TCU Environmental Club, said he thinks a community garden would work well on the campus.

“(The garden) could be a wonderful teaching tool and a productive way for students with green thumbs to spend free time,” Calvert-Rosenberger said.

The university is always looking to advertise the number of organizations on campus that students can get involved in, Calvert-Rosenberger said, and a community garden would be a popular and useful student organization.

Harper said other groups in Fort Worth have expressed interest in creating a community garden, including the Tarrant Area Food Bank. The food bank would use a community garden to grow fresh produce for donation and to educate volunteers and residents on how to properly grow and prepare fresh food.

TCU student volunteers at the Fairmount community garden include senior business majors Kathryn Bentley, Justin Carter and Phillip Johns, who are working with the community garden as their legacy project for the BNSF Next Generation Leadership program in the Neeley School of Business.

According to the Neeley School Web site, one of goals for students in the BNSF Next Generation Leadership program is that they be community partners by volunteering with a nonprofit organization to develop a comprehensive action plan that will enhance that organization’s outreach efforts.

Johns said he thinks the community gardens will build pride in the Fairmount community.

“Communities who have already implemented community gardens have reported lower crime in the vicinity of the garden and an increase in communication between individuals in the community,” Johns said.

Harper said it is important for the university and Fort Worth to work together on sustainable programs.

“The potential for creating programs that speak to sustainability is a rich source of education to TCU students,” Harper said.

Calvert-Rosenberger agreed, adding that the university had made great strides toward sustainability, but that continued improvement on campus and in Fort Worth would be more effective with increased student participation and enthusiasm.

“One of the best things that TCU could do to promote sustainable practices is just to be more transparent to the general student body about plans in the near future,” Calvert-Rosenberger said. “I know that TCU is doing wonderful work, especially in regards to construction and renovation, and it’s something that we should all be proud of. The problem is that most students aren’t aware.”

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