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Formerly Homeless Growing Gardens & Community |Central Texas Gardener

October 9, 2019


We want this place to be a food forest
when it’s all said and done where you can fall out of your house, and as you’re
going to the ground reach upon the fig tree and grab a fig off and pop it
in your mouth. That’s what we want out here. Genesis Gardens at
Community First Village, a Mobile Loaves & Fishes-planned
community for the formerly homeless, is rooted in Alan Graham’s mission to nourish.
– The Genesis was a spiritual Genesis. It was a point in time in my life
a little over 20 years ago where I had this kind of a powerful revelation
about my connection with the creator, and I began to adopt a philosophy at
that time called “Just say yes”. What do you want me to do? And that “Just say yes”
philosophy began to move me, navigate me in a sequence of events that ultimately
led to the founding of Mobile Loaves and Fishes in 1998, and we discovered
something very profound, and that is we believe that the single greatest cause
to homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family, hence the
philosophy of Community First. – To complement Mobile Loaves and Fishes’
Street Ministry, Alan envisioned a village of affordable
tiny homes and communal gathering to unite the chronically homeless and
disabled who wanted permanent familial roots. – And so we embarked on a quest to
find a tract of land. When we found this piece of property, it was a dumping ground.
– Community partners pitched in with donations, materials, and volunteer hours
to turn the lump of coal into a multi-faceted 27 acre diamond that
nourishes body and soul. – I’ve been with the Genesis gardens for over a year now, and I’ve lived out here over a year, and the gardens is my main deal, but I
also do the tools for the garden. – I work in the gardens, but my main job is taking
care of the fruit trees that we’ve got planted around the property.
All the different – from peach, apple, mulberries, plums, grapes, figs, olives.
Wen we have our farmer’s market, we distribute to the residents.
– The eggs from our chickens are one of the fastest moving products at
our farmer’s market every week, and we invite residents to come on an AB
schedule, so we get about half our residents one week and half the next week.
They show up with their grocery bags, and they go shopping, but everything is free.
– If you go into our wonderful grocery stores and you want to buy a
dozen free-range organic chicken eggs, they’re six or seven dollars a dozen.
Or if you want an heirloom quality organic tomato they’re five dollars a pound
approximately, and there’s nobody that lives in poverty that can afford that.
And so we wanted to grow that as the first line of defense into phenomenal
physical health and phenomenal mental health. – The Genesis Gardens crew has two
staff members, so that’s Jim Doster and myself, but we’re backed by about ten
resident contractors, folks who live here or who want to live here who want to
earn a dignified income by working on-site. – I still learn every day from Jim
and Heidi something new, a different type of bean we’re growing in this year or a
different type of cabbage or broccoli. Flowers, yeah we plant flowers out
here in the garden too. – When I first came out here I was working in the
garden and Heidi asked me if I wanted to learn to take care of the fruit trees,
and I said, “Yeah, I’d learn. I’m willing to do something.” So I went to a little class,
a six-week class and learned some stuff about what was going on, and then they
put me in charge of the fruit trees. – A lot of our friends, our neighbors here
are coming from an immediate experience of like a fast food culture because
that’s what’s cheap, but when you start to hand out okra,
or you start to give out those mustard greens especially as southerners
you get those stories of, “Well my grandma used to…” which is a delightful
experience, thinking about someone entering back into a homemaking
rhythm in their lives. – Snap peas with my grandmother. She always had an acre of garden somewhere or another. I can remember as kids being
on the couch snapping peas all day long or just a little bit of everything.
We used to take buckets of water. We’d pull up to the pond.
We didn’t have no water out there. With her pail, we’d fill up five gallon buckets,
load them in back of truck, and water an acre of garden. – When we are settled in cultivating,
it moves us into this place of caring for it, and that’s the ultimate circle of life.
– The circle revolves around resourceful stewardship including
recycling and repurposing materials to build structures like the chicken coop.
– The log beds are reclaimed wood from around the property. We did a lot of
clearing on these 27 acres over the last five years, so we put some of that wood
to use there. The trellises that run through our main garden here that are
planted in vines and a few espalier trees and grapevines, Steven put in.
We’re organically composting our soils and using organic amendments on them.
We want to make sure not only that the food that’s coming out of here is as safe and
as healthy as it can be, but the experience for our growers, including our
volunteers, is very safe. – Although they grow some crops from transplants,
the infrastructure is now in place for the gardeners to earn money by nurturing plants from seed.
– The Geodome will become permanent raised beds, large raised beds
that we’ll plant up in perennial edibles, lots of avocado, citrus, vining edibles
that will take advantage of that really incredibly tall structure.
– Community First Village’s “Just say yes” philosophy thrives on new ventures.
– The dairy goat program is in its infancy. I can’t wait to see who
amongst the folks living out here turns out to be our shepard and who
amongst the folks living out here turns out to be our cheese monger.
– Volunteers sustain every endeavor, enriching their lives as much as the ones they’ve touched.
– If you love gardening and farming, bring those gifts into this community.
Really what I like to say is that I provided a mustard seed of an idea here.
“Let’s build an RV park on steroids.” And then I’ve invited the entire
community to come and pour into it. – The volunteers are awesome. If you can see anything out here in this garden or anywhere on this twenty-seven acres, the volunteers’ hands have touched
it in one form or another. – That’s what gets me up in the mornings.
To come out here because I know I’m gonna be working with volunteers and
teaching them a different thing. – I was homeless for a long time and stuff,
and then to have people trust me and let me go and just plant what I want to plant
and teach other people – which I teach what I’m taught to other people,
so I’m passing something on they could use. – Both in reality and metaphorically
there’s such a connection between gardening, farming, stewarding the
resources of the earth, and we use that word ‘stewardship’ every day here,
and if we take exactly the same concept that we’re doing here on the farm and apply
that to human beings which is what we’re doing, you watch what the what
the result of that will be. This place is manifesting that culture
of complete nourishment. – Just come out and check it out for yourself.
It’s beautiful, quiet, peaceful, and you’ll be amazed what
you see out here.

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