See full story about our upcoming party Sunday March 6 4:30pm at: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=444cdada-beb3-4050-aa22-24ac1231927e&pnum=0
See full story about our upcoming party Sunday March 6 4:30pm at: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=444cdada-beb3-4050-aa22-24ac1231927e&pnum=0
The Southside Place Community Garden is not just about growing vegetables, it’s also about growing community. One of the benefits of having a beautiful outdoor space is that we can use it as a gathering spot. Currently the Southside Place Community garden receives no funds from the City nor does it charge a membership fee. All of the money needed to build and maintain the garden comes from fundraisers and donations. Now that we have a fancy pergola donated by Lovett Homes, we can hold stylish events in the garden with ease.
Our first spring event is a free laidback wine tasting and sale under the pergola on Sunday March 6, 4:30-7:00pm. Beviamo wine distributors will be pouring a selection of Italian wines. You buy what you like for yourself and, if you are feeling generous, buy one to donate to the garden. This wine sale precedes the big, family-friendly garden party on April 24. Your donated wine will be served or allocated to the “wine pull” at the silent auction at the April 24th party. Cheese and light snacks will be served. In case of rain, the event will be moved to a neighbor’s house.
Our second spring even is the fourth annual Southside Place Community Garden Party on Sunday April 24 4:30-8:30pm. Not to be confused with the fancy, white linen, adult-only party in October, this casual p
arty is for the whole family. There will be food provided by local restaurants and this is a BYOB event, although some donated beer and wine (see above) will be provided. Like last year, we’ll hold a silent auction, nutrition education for children, a ladybug release and book reading in the sunflower circles. New this year is a container planting station where you can create your own container garden for you to bring home. Guitarist and singer, John Curry, will be entertaining us with his tunes. Cost for this event is $20 per adult payable at the garden gate. Kids are free. Unlike last year, we have unanimously decided that this year THERE WILL BE NO RAIN. We have no backup plan to move this multifaceted party indoors, except maybe to scurry inside the fire station again.
Join the Southside Place Community Garden! Membership is free. Work days are the first and third Saturday of each month, which are 9am in the summer and 2:30pm in the winter; and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 8am. No gardening experience or knowledge necessary. Email email@example.com to join our email list serve. Also you may join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/
This month, I interviewed garden volunteers on why they volunteer. Although the general benefits of a community garden appear to be self-evident, our volunteers have a variety of reasons for participating. Many people may find it difficult to make the trek to city hall at 9am on Saturday mornings. We all have busy lives and can come up with multiple reasons why we can’t come on any given work day—I’m sleeping in, need more coffee, don’t feel like getting dirty, etc. But here are some reasons why our committed garden workers do keep coming.
Emma Eggleton of Jardin Street often brings her children to the garden to educate them on how vegetables grow. She said that the benefits of volunteering are “to get my kids involved and see where their food comes from and get them excited about eating vegetables.” She said that after learning how to grow cucumbers, they planted some at home. The children now have cucumbers in their lunch box. They also learned that tomatoes sometimes look like green apples and hopefully, too, that apples do not grow on bushes. Emma also appreciates the community aspects of the garden, which is different than growing vegetables in your own back yard. Coming from Perth, Australia, she was used to living in a tight community where they had communal chickens, which she likened to caring for communal vegetables. Note that she is not the first person to propose adding a chicken coop to the garden!
Another devoted garden member, Shala Farhat, lives in a townhouse and does not have the room to garden. Clearly a talented cook, Shala has harvested carrots, herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans from our garden and cooked them all in creative ways. Shala thinks that in addition to playgrounds and parks, it is critical to teach kids that “this is where the vegetables come from and not the grocery store. Everything tastes much better when you grow it.” She said “it is really important in urban areas, that we have vegetable gardens…Houston needs to have more places like this where we can grow stuff that you can actually use.” She suggested that more of our city parks include areas for raised beds. Shala is aware of both the individual health benefits and the environmental impact of the garden. She said, “It’s important being out in the environment, meeting new people, getting some sun.” In addition, the garden “has to be close enough because if you have to drive 20 miles, what point is that? You should be able to walk or bike to it.”
We do encourage all Southside Place residents to walk or bike to the garden, bring their kids, participate in the work days, and harvest what you can use. Work days are the first and third Saturday of each month, which are 9am in the summer and 2:30pm in the winter; and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 8am. Perhaps you will find for yourself more benefits of community gardening.
Join the Southside Place Community Garden! Membership is free. Open to all—not just Southside Place residents. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our club. Also you may join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/
Agrihoods help build community spirit when neighbors can gather to enjoy the veggies they’ve grown together.
Swimming pool. Clubhouse. Golf course. Hiking trail. Farm. These are among the many amenities new homebuilders offer buyers in today’s new communities.
Wait a minute. Farm? Yes, you read that right.
Whether it’s a working farm,vegetable gardening plots, farm stands, participatory cooking classes or Happy Farmer family nights, builders are finding ways to introduce community agriculture, or so-called agrihoods, into new-home developments.
The Agrihood Craze
Offering homebuyers both practical and emotional benefits, the agrihood trend builds on such themes as health, wellness, slow food, whole food and hyperlocal food production, says Brent Herrington, executive vice president of DMB, a developer of residential communities in Arizona, California and Hawaii.
“I see it as a slow revolution that has taken hold and started to be an animating force in the real estate industry rather than just a fringe lifestyle choice that individual people may have made in decades past,” Herrington says.
The tangible benefits are primarily edible as community agricultural efforts produce a bountiful harvest. Tenant farmers and residents grow lettuces, kales, herbs, tomatoes, onions, squashes, okras, peas, mushrooms, garlic, peppers and much more. Produce is also bought and sold at farm stands and used for communal meals.
The emotional benefits include the social aspects of community agriculture and aesthetics of farmscape, which is a landscape that includes open space, crops, trees, streams and other natural elements.
“Growing food, and then later gathering, harvesting and enjoying preparing and sharing food you’ve grown with your own hands is deep, emotional, powerful stuff. It draws people together,” Herrington says.
Farm and Garden
In some new-home communities, ag is just another amenity. In others, it’s a way of life.
Within those extremes, communities offer a variety of options. There are working farms, community gardens and backyard grow-your-own plots, all with varying degrees of help from local farming, gardening and food preparation experts.
Hillwood Communities’ Harvest project in Dallas offers residents three amenities within the community agriculture theme, says Tom Woliver, director of project management.
The centerpiece is a working five-acre farm. Tenant farmers sell greenhouse-grown microgreens to local restaurants, educate homeowners about farming and donate a portion of the produce to a local food bank. A demonstration or “test” garden in front of the farm shows residents how to grow their own watermelons, popping corn and other popular crops. Individual community garden plots allow homeowners to grow their own produce on their own time with their own tools, materials and efforts.
“We built 50 rentable raised garden beds in the first phase and they were sold out with our first 50 homeowners. We’re now building 70 more,” Woliver says. “We also have the option for every homeowner to build, through their builder or the association, raised beds in their backyard so they can grow their own food.”
“Everything You Need”
The new-home community of Willowsford in Ashburn, Va., features a working farm, farm stand, raised beds for demonstration projects and an on-site kitchen, says Brian Cullen, who leads the development operation for Corbelis Development.
The farm stand — soon to be joined by a second one — sells locally sourced chickens, eggs and dairy products as well as the farm’s fresh produce. “If you want to have a barbecue,” Cullen says, “you can walk to the farm stand and get everything you need for your dinner.”
Some early agrihoods required residents to participate in farm work. Newer communities tend to favor volunteer models that allow residents to pick and choose their own activities and levels of involvement.
Many activities are low-intensity and suitable for all ages, Cullen says.
“We have a front farm that is part of the farm stand,” he says. “It has raised beds and we use it for education or pick-your-own, like when strawberries are in season. We also use that front garden on Thursdays when we have Happy Farmer nights. The kids come out and do weeding or mulching or picking something.”
Life in An Agrihood
Homeowner John Pellerito, 35, and his wife, Kristy, 37, have lived at Willowsford since August 2014 with their two children, Sophia, 7, and Tommy, 4.
Pellerito says the agrihood wasn’t why he and Kristy chose their home. Rather, the main attraction was the two-story floor plan, a contemporary open arrangement with 6,000 square feet of space.
Still, they’ve enjoyed the agricultural component of their community.
“We’ve always been health-conscience and shopped mostly at Whole Foods for our produce and meat. The notion that there would be a farm within the community that would produce a good portion of the food we eat was very attractive and interesting to us,” Pellerito says.
The farm is located more than a mile from their home, so they haven’t been affected by any noise or odor, Pellerito says. Nor have they participated in any grow-your-own or hands-in-the-dirt activities. “This is all done for you. It’s well-packaged and managed,” he says.
Their primary interaction has been with the farm stand, which they visit every Saturday when it’s open, Pellerito says. They’ve also attended dinner events and daytime activities a few times each month when they’ve been able to secure places at the table.
“I would like to be able to do more,” Pellerito says. “It’s an open registration and you have to register immediately or they are sold out.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit has been the opportunity to educate the next generation. “We really like the aspect of teaching our children about farming,” Pellerito says, “that you grow food and it’s much healthier to eat food that you grow locally.”
In an agrihood, that might mean right around the corner.
Last October, we held our first Outstanding Dinner in the Garden. Modeled after the traveling Outstanding in the Field ™ dinner party, we set one long table for 54 guests outside in the vacant lot next to the garden. A string of white paper lanterns illuminated the table, serving beef, chicken, and fish and three other courses family style. Last year, everything was so PERFECT that we didn’t want to change a thing.
This year, we hired the same chef Chef Soren Pedersen, formerly of Sorrel Urban Bistro, now a private caterer, to plan and prepare a 5-course menu. We envisioned the same, long table in the vacant lot, but this year longer to accommodate more guests. We anticipated thanking Adam Gonzalez of Ramm Excavation for his supervision of the construction of
our beautiful new pergola, and serving appetizers and cocktails under this new meeting place. The only thing we changes is that we upped our wine game, with the Houston Wine Merchant pairing wines specially to each course of Chef Pedersen’s menu. We promptly sold out the 80 available seats.
It hadn’t rained in Houston in over six weeks. Houston was in a drought. The weather for the citywide block party on October 18th was perfect. However, shortly before our party, Hurricane Patricia came up from Mexico, rain came in from the west, and strong winds came in from the east. We were in the vortex of three storms with severe street flooding projected. Many weekend events were canceled. We had to make the decision to get tents, go inside, or cancel. Plan B was tents: Renting tents was cost prohibitive and none that were long enough were available. I bought four tents online, but the never arrived. Maybe that was for the best, as the heavy rains saturated the grass and there was a threat of lightening. Plan C was to go inside the fire station next door to the garden. The firemen pulled the firetrucks out, cleaned the floor and turned over the building to us. We set three long tables, dressed in white linens inside the stark building and strung white paper lanterns over the space. We greeted guests in the city hall lobby with prosecco, our signature “Outstanding Cocktail.” and passed hors d’oeuvres.
Then we moved into the fire
station for the remaining four courses of gazpacho, salad, main courses of trout, chick and beef, and dessert of chocolate chili cake and pound cake, all paired with a lovely wine chosen by Scott Spencer of Houston Wine Merchant. Some inadvertent entertainment was provided by the firefighters who had to dress and respond to an electrical fire in the middle of the party!
Being plan C, the venue and ambiance wasn’t perfect, but it was still OUTSTANDING! We had a great turn out and guests were raving about the food and the fun of the whole event.
Special thanks go to Scott Spencer and Barb DeWitt for the wine donation, the firemen and Assistant Chief of Police Ulysses Serrano for donating their space, and Jennifer Anderson and Ron Shimkus for the chair rental donation and for their hard labor in turning a fire station into a charming restaurant. If you missed out, don’t worry: We’ll do it again next October–hopefully outside in pleasant weather.
and it’s beautiful. Designed by architect and garden member, Joe Przybyl, and constructed under the supervision of contractor and garden member, Adam Gonzalez, our vision has become a reality! You are invited to come enjoy it any time. Here’s some photos of our progress, in reverse order.
The bid for sealing the the pergola was over $1,000, so the architect did it himself. Imagine how hot it got in that jumpsuit in early September in Houston!
The initial vision stage: Note that the stonework around the columns and bed will be completed later.
Thank you, Lovett Homes, for your generous donation!
Slow Roasted – Cider Brined Pork Belly
on Sweet Pea Pancake and Red Onion Marmalade
on Peruvian Potato Tart with Balsamic Cranberries
wine pairing: Sparkling – Toffoli Prosecco (Italy)
Chilled Fall Vegetable Gazpacho
With Crispy Crab
paired with Pinot Gris – Scarpetta Pinot Grigio 2013 (Italy)
Fresh Arugula – Pea Shoot Salad
With Smoked Mozzarella, Roasted Beets, Grilled Apple, Spiced Walnut
And Light Mustard Vinaigrette
paired with Joe Dobbes Pinot Noir ‘Jovino’ 2011
Grilled, Herb Crusted Trout
With Green Grape Beurre Blanc
Apple Wood Smoked Filet Mignon
With Caramelized Shallot Pan jus
Braised Local Chicken
In Fire Roasted Pepper Stew
Roasted Root Vegetable
With Herb – Grain Mustard Butter
Yukon Potato Au Gratin
With Sharp White Cheddar and Fresh Scallions
paired with Xanthos Proprietary Red Blend 2013 (Sonoma Coast)
Ginger and Chili Spiked Chocolate Cake
with Plum Compote
Warm Lavender Pound Cake
With Grilled Pear and Sweet Crème Fraiche
wine pairing: Chateau Suau Sauternes 2006 (France)
As the summer heats up and the neighbors leave on vacation, the garden winds down. Few crops are planted in the heat of the summer. The tomatoes, if there are any left, cook on the vine. Few garden members who are actually still in town want to weed or water in 90+ degree heat. The party season is over—it’s too hot for an outdoor party and it’s too hard to schedule around everybody’s travel plans. Only the okra are happy in this intense, suffocating heat.
Which gives us time to reflect on the community garden’s mission and progress. One respected garden member commented that we’re really not a serious garden—that we’re doing this “more for fun.” True, we are not a production garden, logging our progress by the number of pounds of produce we grow. On one city lot, we are not going to solve world hunger. True, we are not all interested in becoming Master Gardeners or are fascinated by the subtleties of diagnosing a magnesium vs. a manganese deficiency in the beans. And, true, we do have a lot of exceptional parties. But we also have a mission that we take seriously.
The mission of this garden is to create a beautiful, shared, public space for growing organic fruits and vegetables for residents of Southside Place is donated to local food banks. Planting and harvesting is done by members following a master plan for plant selection, fertilization, and crop rotation. Local schools use the garden for educational purposes. Children learn how plants grow (no, son, carrots do not grow on trees) and learn an appreciation for vegetables that they may someday actually eat. The garden also serves gathering place for picnics and parties.
The garden organization, an affiliate member of Urban Harvest, began February 24, 2013 in a public meeting. We voted to have a communal garden, possibly with some allotted plots for rent by individuals at a later date. The City of Southside Place awarded us the use of one city-owned lot for at least for five years. We became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation effective October 7, 2013 so that charitable contributions are tax-deductible. Since then, we have installed plumbing, built the first eight raised beds and planted and harvested our two years crops. The front and side habitat gardens attract beneficial insects making us a certified butterfly habitat. We built a tool shed, sponsored by Texas Citizens Bank. We have made several deliveries of fresh produce to appreciative, local food banks. We have had several lively fundraising parties and have generated a lot of interest and camaraderie in our community.
So while we’ve had a lot of fun building a productive garden on a vacant city lot, we are not just playing in the dirt. We are growing something meaningful, engaging and sustainable.
We are proud of our accomplishments so far but we continue to build and grow. Here are our plans for this year: