Thinking of Growing Your Own Food in the Coronavirus Crisis? San Antonio Urban Farmers Offer Tips

Thinking of Growing Your Own Food in the Coronavirus Crisis? San Antonio Urban Farmers Offer Tips
Instagram / @rootsofchange
Amid the pandemic, gardening is transforming from a hobby into an way to fight food insecurity and build resilience.

Local food justice leaders, growers and organizations are working to bring education, information and resources to San Antonio residents in the weeks ahead. Here's what three of them are doing to bring help to home gardeners:

Roots of Change Urban Garden: The Eastside Community Garden, a Southwest Workers Union project, plans to create a resource bank via its website for specialty documents and zines focused on food growing techniques and medicinal herbs. The team also will announce new programming and outreach efforts soon, all with the mission of bringing food to those in need. It already offers an online newsletter.

“As we keep pace with the city, we are always working to make sure that poor folks and communities of color are not left behind. We are here to make sure there’s access,” said Brian Gordon, food sovereignty coordinator for Roots of Change. “Hopefully we can create a more sustainable place – with people coming out of this more resilient than before— by supporting our neighbors.

Roots of Change Growing Tips:

1. Keep lighting issues in mind. Place plants in an area where they’ll get more sun in the morning than in the afternoon, which tends to be harsher and more stressful for plants. Rather than placing a garden in the middle of your yard, try to have plants face east or along shadow lines.

2. Build holistic spaces when possible. Plants work best in groups. Explore flowering pollinator plants, medicinal herbs and supporting plants and trees, which benefit each other and help your vegetable garden be more resilient.

3. Use sheet mulching. Build new topsoil by using layers of organic matter, a process called the "lasagna method."

4. Explore additional resources. At the time of this writing, the Bitters Brush Recycling Center on Wurzbach Parkway and Nelson Gardens Recycling Center both offer free mulch and free compost. Fine-cut mulch is available at 3 cents per pound. Local nurseries including Evergreen Garden also take phone orders and pickups.

click to enlarge Eco Centro's Cecile Parrish waters plants in a campus greenhouse. - Lea Thompson
Lea Thompson
Eco Centro's Cecile Parrish waters plants in a campus greenhouse.

Eco Centro:
This sustainability center, part of the Alamo Community College District, is currently closed to the public. However, its team is working hard to engage the community via new Instagram content, online events and monthly newsletters. More information is available via its website.

“What is interesting about these unprecedented occurrences, is that is created a moment for urban agriculture to shine,” said Cecile Parrish, Eco Centro’s urban farm manager. “We’re working on content right now that will cover everything from growing plants to maintaining backyard chickens.”

The Eco Centro team will be collaborating with other local growers and organizations in the coming months to answer questions, offer resources and help to those in need.

“So many people feel that to start a garden they need to go buy tons of things,” said Ariana Fuentes, Eco Centro’s farm and garden manager. “Usually, in a normal San Antonio backyard you already have the materials you need.”

Eco Centro Growing Tips:

1. Start small. Choose one online mentor to follow because there are going to be a ton of different opinions, and it's best to learn from a single source before you start experimenting on your own.

2. Do just one thing, one day at a time. Take it at a measured pace. For your first day, focus on starting seeds, then the next, prep your beds, and so on. Otherwise you may get overwhelmed.

Thinking of Growing Your Own Food in the Coronavirus Crisis? San Antonio Urban Farmers Offer Tips (3)
Instagram / @garciastreetfarm

Garcia Street Urban Farm: This community farm opened to Eastside San Antonio in 2019, promising to fight food insecurity by growing fresh produce. The farm is expected to share content including its Gardening 101 class online and through Eco Centro in the coming weeks. It posts helpful content on its Instagram account: @garciastreetfarm.

“Right now, we’re working on a strategy to bring new jobs — adding shade trees, spreading compost and solidifying our irrigation,” local farmer Jovanna Lopez said. “With everyone out of office, it limits what we can do. Right now more than anything, food is needed. We will be providing garden starts for people who want them and hoping to grow things at the farm.”

Garcia Street Tip: Check what’s available around you. Find out what materials you already have on hand and use that to determine what you can start with.

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