Greenies Urban Farm to Demonstrate Agriculture in the City

Project will provide food, health/wellness education, more   

Check out this article and others like it at AgriLife TODAY

OCTOBER 16, 2020

Greenies Urban Farm, a collaborative project which will bring fresh, nutritious food and a generous helping of practical education opportunities to San Antonio residents, held a groundbreaking and planting ceremony Oct 15.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert and former commissioner Tommy Adkisson, San Antonio Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service representatives and leaders from the city’s east side community were among those on hand for the ceremony.

The planting and groundbreaking event was attended by more than 60 people. Hosted by Bexar County, which is funding the urban farm project, the event celebrated the urban farm’s initial crop planting.

The farm is a collaboration of Bexar County, the Bexar County Commissioners Court and AgriLife Extension in Bexar County. The project, which has an estimated construction cost of $2.1 million, is being developed on 10 acres of property previously owned by the Union Pacific Railroad and acquired by Bexar County in 2016.

When complete, Greenies Urban Farm will include demonstration and teaching gardens, an outdoor classroom and kitchen, a 300-person event center, a farmers’ market and more.   

Gardeners standing and squatting to plant vegetables in the field at Greenies Urban Farm

The first round of crops, planted at the urban farm by Bexar County Master Gardener and AgriLife Extension volunteers, were cool-season vegetables, including a Texas Superstar variety of broccoli, as well as cabbage, kale and spinach. Teams of 10 were used to maintain social distancing requirements.

“The crops we are producing now as well as the next crops we will plant, which will include cool-season spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens, will be donated to the San Antonio Food Bank once they are harvested,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension horticulturist for Bexar County. “We have timed the planting so the produce will be ready for harvest from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.”

Rodriguez and Larry Stein, Ph.D., assistant horticulture department head and AgriLife Extension horticulturist based at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde, were instrumental in laying out the 1-acre planting site, plant selection and volunteer coordination.   

Building Greenies Urban Farm

Bexar County is responsible for the development and maintenance of the urban farm’s building structures, which will include the new AgriLife Extension county office.

Group of people masked with shovels standing in the Greenies field for a groundbreaking

“The first phase of the project, which was to prepare an acre of land for vegetable planting, has been completed, and the next phase will be to build the vertical structures,” said Jesse Escamilla,  project manager with Bexar County Facilities Management Department. “By next July we hope to have completed the AgriLife Extension office, outdoor classroom and raised ornamental flower beds.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolfe said this is an ideal time for the development of such a project.

“It is especially important right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that the county’s residents need access to fresh and nutritious foods,” Wolfe said. “We need to be sure everyone not only has the opportunity to eat well, but that they also have access to educational programs to maintain those healthy habits.”  

Greenies Urban Garden offerings

“The new Greenies Urban Farm will assist the San Antonio Food Bank in helping families experiencing food shortages in San Antonio,” said Calvert, who represents the county precinct where the urban garden is located. “On behalf of the folks who need our help, not just in my precinct but in all the areas the food bank serves, I am proud to lead the fight to ensure no one goes hungry during these difficult times.” 

Man standing at a podium with people under a tent and a field at Greenies in the background

Cooper said he was honored the San Antonio Food Bank was chosen as the designated recipient of the first harvest from Greenies Urban Garden.

“The urban gardens and its educational offerings will be a great help to Bexar County residents who are food insecure or live in ‘food desert’ areas and need fresh produce and/or want to learn how to grow their own produce and better maintain their health,” Cooper said.

Calvert noted the urban farm will help revitalize that area, which is home to Wheatley Middle School, churches and residential areas.

“This area where the urban farm is being built used to be called the Goonies because it was overgrown with trees and brush and completely undeveloped,” Calvert said. “Now we’re hoping that in the future this area will be known as the Greenies instead — and will one day be a public destination site.”

AgriLife Extension will provide programmatic expertise for the urban farm — as well as community education on a variety of agriculture and health and wellness topics — using the urban farm as a backdrop

Bringing agriculture to the big city

“As I was traveling here from Uvalde and passing through towns like D’Hanis, Hondo and Castroville and seeing all the agricultural activity in this area, I thought how great it was that this project is bringing agriculture and the lessons of agriculture — hard work, resilience and persistence — to this location,” said Michael Haynes, AgriLife Extension district administrator for the agency’s 21-county Southwest District 10. Haynes was among the speakers at the event.

Masked people standing behind a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension tablecloth cover and decorations with the Greenies Urban Farm field behind

Nelda Leyba Speller, AgriLife Extension county director for Bexar County, said the new urban farm and its facilities will allow AgriLife Extension, its sister agencies and the volunteer organizations it oversees to provide an array of education and outreach programs to benefit residents of Bexar County.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Bexar County and the Bexar County Commissioners Court for entrusting the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to cultivate not just soil into a harvest, but a residence in the community that all San Antonians can call their own,” Speller said. “We’re excited to have a new home from which we can continue to inform people about the importance of agriculture and the food we eat — and the connection these have to one’s health.”

Speller said programs at the urban farm will include those related to agriculture and natural resources, crop and animal production, ecosystem management, integrated pest management, 4-H and youth development, family and community health, and other quality of life issues.

“We have been working with AgriLife Extension, the county, nonprofits and other organization to make this happen,” said Cassandra Miller, secretary for the Harvard Place Eastlawn neighborhood association, which has been involved in project planning and coordination.

“This will be great not only for educating our kids about the importance of agriculture and where their food comes from,” said the former teacher. “It will also be great for adults, as the programs will help improve their health and wellness. This will be a tremendous benefit for an area that has been deprived for a long time and is ready for revitalization.”       

Avatar

Paul Schattenberg

210-859-5752 paschattenberg@ag.tamu.eduPaul is a media relations specialist and member of the news editing team of the Texas A&M AgriLife Communications department of the Texas A&M University System. He is responsible for media relations support for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in Bexar and Travis counties, as well as the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde. Paul also supports the AgriLife center in Weslaco and AgriLife Extension’s South region. Paul provides media relations support for a number of “beats” that include Texas A&M AgriLife’s Family and Community Health Unit, the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Texas 4-H, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute and Texas Water Resources Institute. He also provides media support for the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) emergency and disaster communications in general — and for hurricane events in particular. Paul has a master’s degree in communication arts from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and more than 30 years of experience in journalism, public and media relations, and corporate communications.

Lunch and Learn Pest and Garden Webinar Series

Hello everyone don’t miss out on this week’s webinars.

David Rodriguez and Molly Keck are teaming up to bring you two brand new webinars (8/18 -Turf Management and 8/19 Turf Pests both at 12:00 p.m. Central Time) this week.

Remember, these two webinars are FREE and AgriLife Bexar County will not ask you for your credit card information!

Click on the following link at the dates and times of the presentations:
https://zoom.us/j/99025939574…

Meeting ID: 990 2593 9574
Passcode: Garden2020

 

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Lunch and Learn Online Pest and Garden Free Webinar Series

Hello Everyone. Check out our Lunch and Learn Online Pest and Garden Free Webinar Series schedule for August .

Join Horticulturist David Rodriguez and Entomologist Molly Keck for their Live Lunch and Learn Gardening Webinar Series. Click on the link below the date and time of the presentation to join.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/99025939574?pwd=ZFNJckpKTTV3Q25DWDdFaXNPZExHdz09

Meeting ID: 990 2593 9574
Passcode: Garden2020

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Getting Ready to Grow a Fall Vegetable Garden w/ David Rodriguez

Hello Everyone. I hope you are staying safe with your families in these crazy times. Just wanted to let you know about some upcoming trainings that we will be hosting online to ensure that we are following government guidelines and keeping our community safe.

Check it out!!

Come visit live with David Rodriguez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Horticulturist in how to have the best family vegetable garden this fall.

Tuesday, July 28th 2020, 12pm-1pm

To join, Click Here at the date and time of presentation.

Getting Ready to Grow a Fall Vegetable Garden with David Rodriguez

 

 

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program Postponed

Hope everyone is staying safe. Just an update. The Saturday morning CVG classes have been postponed. We have missed March 14, 21st, and now 28th of class. The Bexar County Master Gardeners, San Antonio Botanical Garden, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension staff wish you and your families well.

While we are all doing our part and practicing social distancing, check us out on Facebook for some online trainings and gardening updates!

https://m.facebook.com/AgrilifeBexarCounty/

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 2, February 29, 2020

Hi Friends!

Today was the first day of Spring planting at the Children’s Vegetable Garden. We really lucked out with the gorgeous weather!

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We began the season by planting a few crops that can withstand any cold snaps we might have in March:

Planting measurements for the potatoes:

  1. Measure 8 inches in from the edge of your plot
  2. Mark out two 18 inch long trenches
  3. Measure to make sure they’re a foot apart
  4. Dig each trench 4 inches deep

We dusted our potato rows with horticultural dust, which you can see in the pictures. This helps prevent fungus in in the seed potatoes we use. After we place the potatoes in, we mound up the dirt over them, which helps us to dig them up later!

Take a look at what we planted:

After we finished planting the potatoes, we planted our cabbage and broccoli. First thing is to make sure to soak the broccoli transplants in a bucket of water, just up to the lip of their root ball, and until all the air bubbles come out.

Next, we plant! We took both our broccoli and cabbage transplants and put them in the soil just a little deeper than the soil line of their containers. Take a look at our young gardeners planting!

These are what our first planting session finished products look like!

We made sure to hand water the new transplants in very well, and watered in some liquid fertilizer (Hasta-Gro) to end our first day!

Make sure to check back next week to see whats growing!

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Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 1, February 22, 2020

Hi Friends!

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Welcome back y’all! This Saturday was the first weekend we had the new families out in the garden. Today’s agenda was super simple: a quick participant orientation, make sure things are clean and level, and fertilize in preparation for next week – which will be first big garden workday! I can’t wait to meet all the new families and see all the magic happen over the growing season. This season we’ll be growing:

  • Irish Potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Petunias
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Jalapeno
  • Sweet Basil
  • Bush Beans

Take a look at some of last’s Spring’s plants and harvest!

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I just want to recognize the long history of success this youth garden can boast. The Children’s Vegetable Garden Program has flourished as one of the oldest ongoing vegetable teaching garden programs in the nation with over 10,600 participants to date.  IMG_9245Y’all. Seriously. Over 10K individuals have gone through this program. That’s impressive. How lucky are we to have this here in San Antonio?! Plus, every child receives their Junior Master Gardener (JMG) certificate at the end of the season, which is VERY COOL.

This success comes from committed partnerships of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, their Bexar County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the San Antonio Botanical Society, numerous volunteer groups and Green Industry sponsors.

 

That’s all for this week! Be sure to check back next week to see what’s growing in our garden!

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