Learning Garden educates youths

Program assistant Tevin Gray harvests plants at The Learning Garden. The Garden, on the city’s northside, allows community members to learn about planting and maintaining vegetables and edible plants.
Tevin Gray (left), a Grow Local program assistant, tells a group of students that the tree in front of them is edible as he educates them on the importance of healthy food.

Locals can learn the value of locally sourced produce at the Learning Garden, a community teaching garden where people can learn to grow and harvest their own food.

The Corpus Christi nonprofit Grow Local South Texas, which runs the garden, hopes to improve the health of the local community by educating them about the importance of healthy and affordable nutrient-dense foods.

“It’s really everyone just coming together to grow things,” said Michelle Kish, Grow Local operations and development coordinator. 

Located at Tom Graham Park on the city’s northside, Grow Local hosts free after-school programs, educational workshops, day camps and field trips centered on how to sustainably grow produce in an urban setting. Visitors can learn tips and tricks, what is in season and how to compost. 

“We like to focus on youth programs but during our open hours we have families and adults who will come visit the garden,” Kish said. “We have an older man who will come just to talk about what we’re growing and what he’s growing at his house.”

Unlike rent-a-space community gardens, the organization has a lease agreement that allows it to have its own teaching events at the city park.  

Grow Local’s core initiative is the Downtown Farmers Market, which it puts together every Wednesday evening at the Corpus Christi Art Center. A percentage of what is not used for educational demonstrations is sold at the farmers market to help fund the Learning Garden. 

Leftover produce from the farmers market is used for their donation-based farm stand on Thursday mornings at the garden. If the organization still has remaining produce, it is distributed to different places in the community such as the food bank. 

According to Kish, the garden has become an important asset to the community, especially to those living in the adjoining neighborhood. 

On Thursdays the students from Oak Park Elementary School visit the garden for educational sessions on growing and composting. 

“Everyone seems very supportive of us. We have a good amount of people from the neighborhood come visit, especially the children,” Kish said. 

Once a year the garden hosts a neighborhood garden party where people can enjoy food, live music and games, all while learning about sustainable growing. 

Tevin Gray, who began as a volunteer for the garden and is now Grow Local’s program assistant, has been with the nonprofit for over three years now. 

“I enjoy being able to connect, work, and grow with our local community,” Gray said. “When I visit The Learning Garden, get my hands in the soil and become grounded in my activities, no matter how stressful of a day, the garden has a way of rejuvenating the most tireless of souls.” 

The Learning Garden will have its next “All Hands Day” on Feb. 24, which is their hands-on learning session at the garden. The team will be building a new shade structure as part of their first phase of design improvements. 

To learn more about The Learning Garden or if you are interested in volunteering, visit www.growlocalstx.com. 

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