Growing for Good: How One Local Garden Gives Back To The Community
No other community garden in the Metroplex is more aptly named than The Giving Garden of Carrollton. Since its inception in 2010, Carrollton’s first community garden, which is 100% organically and sustainably maintained, has donated more than 9 tons of organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs to area food banks. In addition to all that food, they still have plenty left over for those who toil in the garden.
Laura Margadonna serves as president of the garden’s board of directors and — we’re proud to say — is a Marshall Grain customer. She and many of her 29 fellow members shop regularly with us for their plants and organic supplies.
“I really didn’t know much about organic gardening until I joined The Giving Garden in early 2010,” Laura says. “Then Marshall Grain became my ‘go to’ source for organic products and healthy plants.”
She estimates that she gets 90% of her gardening supplies from us, even though there are several other plant nurseries closer to home.
“All of your employees are friendly, helpful and always willing to talk gardening,” she says.
A Self-Supporting Enterprise
The Giving Garden, which was spearheaded by Carrollton resident Willie Lane along with a “seed committee” of other folks was jointly developed by Keep Carrollton Beautiful and Aldersgate United Methodist Church (AUMC) to provide a sustainable community garden opportunity for the citizens of Carrollton, without regard to demographic or socioeconomic status.
Located behind Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 3926 Old Denton Rd. in Carrollton, the garden is primarily self-supporting and does not receive any regular donations. Instead, participants pay a $40-per-year membership fee and spend their own monies to buy plants and supplies for their plots. Occasionally, the garden holds fundraisers to pay for things like a new rabbit-proof fence, a second shed, lawn mower, lumber to replace rotting boards on beds, etc. They also have received a few one-time donations from local organizations such as Chipotle’s, Lowe’s and The Home Depot.
Three of the garden’s 32 beds — one for herbs, one for vegetables and one for wildflowers — are maintained for the benefit of all garden members. Everybody pitches in to make sure these beds are properly maintained. But that’s not all. Half their own crops are also donated each season so that those in need can enjoy the benefits of fresh, organic produce. Much of the food goes to the Christian Community Action food pantry, Metrocrest Services, and AUMC Food Share.
The Giving Garden also reaches out to the community to promote organic food practices, mentors other community garden groups, and even shares their resources with other organizations, including Friends of Furneaux Creek, a non-profit that maintains Carrollton’s trail systems and supports Monarch butterfly habitats.
Laura notes that The Giving Garden often gives tours. Among the tourists are Scout troops and school groups.
“This past spring, we had two pre-school classes that came to release ladybugs. At the second one, the ladybugs were so lively that we could barely keep them inside the cups until the kids could put them on the plants! But everyone had a good time. The kids love the garden — they especially love sampling the mint leaves and ‘petting’ the Lamb’s Ears.”
Service Brings Rewards
The Giving Garden has been widely recognized by the community at large and has served as a model for other gardens. The Dallas Morning News and Carrollton Leader have both featured interviews with founder Willie Lane. (Lane passed away in 2018.) And in 2018 the garden was named an “Outstanding Community Organization” by the City of Carrollton.
Serving the community is its own reward, but Laura notes that the personal satisfaction gardeners get from working their beds extends way beyond enjoying the fruits of their own harvests. Socializing, learning and sharing with one another is just as fruitful. They teach each other about best organic gardening practices, composting, good nutrition, and caring for the environment, and they get to spend healthy amounts of time outdoors.
Garden Members also get to participate in what Laura calls “Bunny Roundups.”
“Occasionally someone will leave open a gate and rabbits — usually the babies — will get in and eat the seedling plants,” she explains. “First, we borrowed traps and caught one or two, but then we found that if we could get as many people as possible to come out on Saturday morning and beat the bushes, we could usually chase them out of the garden. Sometimes we could actually catch them and release them outside the gate. It’s actually a good team-building exercise.”
Bunny roundups aside, joining the garden is a serious commitment, so candidates are always interviewed by at least two of the Garden’s seven board members. Some applicants aren’t willing to put in the volunteer hours required while others may discover that they are unable to meet the physical demands of maintaining their beds.
A Growing Need
Nevertheless, The Giving Garden nearly always has a waiting list of people who want to join. When that happens Laura and her colleagues refer people to one of Carrollton’s sister community gardens.
Since The Giving Garden was founded, three other community gardens have sprung up in Carrollton — Harvest Community Garden, Grow and Share Community Garden, and Horizon Community Garden. Each one started out independently through the efforts of the churches on whose property they reside and were mentored and supported by The Giving Garden and Keep Carrollton Beautiful (KCB). KCB has since transformed into “Community Gardens of Carrollton”, a non-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization. Their mission is helping to enhance and build a stronger community, bridging the gap of food insecurity by supporting community gardening. Both “The Giving Garden” and “Harvest Garden” operate under the umbrella of this organization.
Laura has given the garden her whole-hearted support for nine years, and her enthusiasm remains as high as it ever was. She sums up the group’s on-going commitment this way:
“Knowing that there are people out there depending on our fresh produce motivates us to garden all year. And about the only thing that will keep us from harvesting and delivering the Saturday produce donation is lightning.”
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