By Tony Tucci
About 30 interested gardeners attended a meeting Saturday to discuss locating a community garden in Oak Hill, and ended up with a proposal to form two committees — planning and finance — to pursue the matter.
“I’m pleased with the turnout,” said Patrick Hamilton, an experienced organic farmer who organized the meeting to determine interest in a community garden. “With any luck, we could have seeds in the ground for a garden this fall.”
A lot of hurdles have to be jumped before then, but Hamilton said there are groups such as the Sustainable Food Center and Austin Community Gardens that are willing to help with both technical and financial support. The city, for instance, could waive fees on water taps.
Interested gardeners now will meet to determine financial costs, fees that will be charged for garden plots, and, perhaps most importantly, the location. Austin already has 26 community gardens, but none in Oak Hill. Jake Stewart, head of Austin Community Gardens, said present sites range from a fraction of an acre to up to three acres.
The site most frequently mentioned Saturday was Small Middle School, mostly because students there already are deeply involved in gardening studies. The school has been recognized as a Green Tech Academy and offers more environmental courses than any other in the district. Students have their own garden, and can choose elective courses including food nutrition, horticulture, environmental sustainability, native plants and the taste of science.
The school has three environmental science teachers. One of them, Chris Brooks, said the students would benefit from the gardeners who would “bring their expertise and enthusiasm” to the school. “This would be a great opportunity for partnership with the community,” he said.
David and Jo Ann Kugle offered a three-quarter acre parcel of land on their property on Southview Road, about two and a half miles west of the Oak Hill ‘Y’ off U.S. Highway 290. The property is across from Waldorf School, which also might be considered as a garden site.
Hamilton said his main interest, and most of his experience, has been orchards, and he’d like to see a community garden with room for fruit trees. “Right now we have a few fruit trees in our front yard,” said Hamilton, who lives on Red Willow Drive in the Scenic Brook neighborhood. “We might end up with multiple sites,” he said.
One man experienced as a participant in community gardens is Dwight Littleton, 66, who had a garden on South Lamar Boulevard for about 10 years until it was sold recently to a developer. Littleton said a big problem in Oak Hill would be keeping out the deer, which frequent most neighborhoods. That means the cost of a high, deer-proof fence.
Hamilton said he would take the names of persons who signed up for committees and contact them to schedule further meetings. He also planned to write a report on the meeting and send it to anyone interested. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or he can be called at (804) 615-0709.
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