Gardeners from the Multicultural Refugee Coaliton tend to their plants and plots at the Festival Beach Community Garden. Photo by Hannah Jones for KUT News.
On Saturday, neighbors that share the Festival Beach Community Garden by Town Lake celebrated one year of gardening. The two-acre piece of land is lush with potato plants, onion stems and infant orchard trees. When Kathy McWhorter first started searching for a place to establish a community garden, she remembers this area being a flat piece of green lawn space.
“We are the first community garden to be put in on city park land as part of a new initiative to have community gardens developed on city park land and other land,” McWhorter said.
City staff is identifying other parcels of land that can be used as gardens. This year, the Austin City Council approved water rate reductions for community gardens. Under the new city initiative to expand the number of community gardens, the city will offer the land but it is up to the community to organize and manage it. A non-profit would have to sponsor it and rules set by the city must be followed.
At Festival Beach Community Garden, plots are rented for free to people and organizations. Johnson Doe showed off the potatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, onion bulbs and other vegetables growing in the ground. Doe runs the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. It’s a non-profit that helps refugees get acquainted with the Austin community. As others at the one-year anniversary party are enjoying the music and food, a small group of refugees are transporting mulch in wheelbarrows and watering the plants. The group has a couple of plots reserved for their clients to grow food their own food at the Festival Beach Community Garden. Doe said the garden gives the clients something to work towards.
“What happens is these people don’t speak English. So it’s just hard for them to get work and so we want them to feel at home and the only thing they can do to feel at home is to get a place to work,” he said.