Wildflower seed bombs were thrown into the air Wednesday morning to celebrate the opening of the Garcia Street Urban Farm, a 4.1-acre Eastside plot that will serve as an educational and food production hub in an area of town that is a designated food desert.
The flowers will bloom and become part of the pollinator meadows and other areas where people and wildlife can spend time enjoying the outdoors, said Eco Centro Director Meredith Miller. The William R. Sinkin Eco Centro, a sustainability center located on the San Antonio College campus, is one of several partner organizations that made the urban farm possible.
The urban farm has been ten years in the making, said Shannon Brown, owner of Ecosystem Regeneration Artisans, who was tapped by Eco Centro to help turn the once “lifeless turf grass field” in the middle of the city into a “productive community space where people can enjoy and experience the richness and abundance that nature can offer.”
Plots of land will go toward vegetable and fruit production, with the harvested food going to the farm’s neighbors. Small sections of land will be used as incubator plots, where any San Antonio resident can “rent” the space to grow vegetables, fruits, and more. Residents can pay for their space by donating part of their harvest back to the community, volunteering, or working with a local family to educate them on healthy food options and cooking methods, Brown said.
The design is all about soil and water conservation and regeneration, Brown said. “We will catch water and hold it on site for as long as possible, then use it to help grow the fruit trees, crops, increase soil moisture, while decreasing opportunity for flooding.”
Additional partners include compost recycling program Compost Queens and the San Antonio Housing Authority, which provided funding for the project, part of its Choice Neighborhoods Critical Community Initiatives plan, with grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation funds. The grants aim to address struggling neighborhoods to revitalize distressed HUD housing and addresses the challenges in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The urban farm was constructed near city public housing with the intention of improving the property and the surrounding area. It will improve access to healthy food options and educational opportunities for families who might not otherwise have access, said David Nisivoccia, president and CEO of SAHA. “This green space was built as much to improve health through healthy food as it was to offer a sense of space and home to people who have limited access to the outdoors.”
The farm will also be used for urban agriculture research through partnerships with local two- and four-year colleges.
“It’s all about empowering our diverse communities, and empowering those communities – families, individuals, and schools – to do for themselves,” Nisivoccia said.
Robert Vela, president of San Antonio College, said the urban farm, through its partnerships within the community, aims to help put an end to poverty throughout the city.
“The farm creates wealth in many ways,” Vela said. “It improves access to food and knowledge. We have to continue to build these hands-on education partnerships with the East Side, and show these residents that anything is possible through education, whether that education is on the topic of farming or otherwise.”