Most people think gardens are good for one thing – growing fresh fruits and vegetables. But the community garden designed and constructed by the Green STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Academy students at Mendez Middle School is doing so much more. Their Bright Green Future Grant project has big plans to feed surrounding residents, teach students about how to run a small business, reduce waste, and improve the health and well-being of the Dove Springs community.
The Dove Springs area where Mendez is located is considered a food desert, meaning that residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious food. In their research, students found that a community garden may increase the value of a person's property by as much as $37,000 and also has the potential to lower crime. So, this project could help the environment in Dove Springs in more ways than one!
The Mendez Community Garden has been designed as a “food forest” that will offer community residents plots for rent that are managed by students in the Business Careers course at Mendez. The actual planting, growing, and harvesting work will be done by STEM Academy students. The Sustainable Food Center provided soil, compost, plants and seeds, as well as the gardening curriculum.
This year, Mendez had five garden beds available for lease and is partnering with Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin (GAVA) for the future development of a farm stand that the garden will supply. Mendez students are committed to taking visitors on tours of the garden where they explain the various types of beds and plantings. They also show how the rain water catchment system works for our climate, which will help everyone understand the need for and benefits of water conservation at home.
So, the next time you think all a garden is good for is growing food, think again. The community garden at Mendez Middle School is not only about growing healthy foods, it’s about growing a healthier community!