Words: Julieta Hernandez Photos: Rachel Benavides
Imagine tasting sweet, freshly picked onions from local gardens or seeing green shoots sprouting from dry pinto beans planted in rich, warm, Coastal Bend soil. You can experience both of these things at the Learning Garden, a part of GROW Local South Texas. The experts there will even let you in on the best time to harvest dragon kale!
Aislynn Campbell, the executive director of the four-corner garden plot on Up River Road, believes in the simple concept of teaching a man to fish rather than giving him a fish. “Our primary goal here is to teach you how to grow wherever you’re at,” she said.
Since sprouting in 2013, the garden has been open five days a week for growers and four days a week for those who want to volunteer, learn, or explore digging in the dirt. Campbell and the gardeners show people around, introduce the garden’s concept, and tell visitors how to start their own garden at home. Campbell would be overjoyed if every backyard in Corpus Christi brimmed with food and flowers.
Joining the garden is free and open to the public. You can even stop by and simply wander through the park and pick ripe fruit from their edible forest.
“While I’ve been out here working in the garden for all these years, I’ve learned so much about wildlife and have seen every kind of caterpillar and butterfly,” Campbell said while looking over her garden corner, complete with bishop flowers and young vines. “It’s just being able to sit for a second and hear and see things that you don’t when driving through concrete.”
The gardeners at the Learning Garden hope to affect a change in the way Corpus Christi residents view food by producing and sharing their harvests with the community. In addition to helping others grow plants in the Learning Garden, programs manager Cynthia Garcia overlooks most of the community involvement of the garden with the annual Farm-to-Table dinner. This program encourages the spread of locally sourced food. The garden is also a part of the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers Market, held every Wednesday at the Art Center. Gardeners arrive with oodles of fruits and vegetables that were harvested that morning.
Campbell believes in the growth opportunity our area offers because we have more pliable, healthy farming land than we have residents. For this reason, she and other garden members want to inspire the community to yank a green revolution from the soil and take it to their own backyards.
Creating a community space for people to come together, grow together, and enjoy each other’s company blossoms into a neighborly support system. If cultivated properly, programs like the Learning Garden can produce a bounty of benefits.