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Volunteers plant first crops in garden aimed at helping Hallsville's needy residents

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 23, 2013 at 10 p.m.

The onions planted Saturday to start Hallsville's new community garden might take months to grow, but residents' excitement was immediately visible.

The onions were the first crops planted in Hallsville's Outreach Garden, a new project started by a group of residents in connection with Hallsville Outreach, a nonprofit agency that assists local families with food and clothing.

"I am excited that I am not the only one out here planting onions," said David Holman, president of Hallsville Outreach. "I gathered the group (of volunteers) in about a day."

Ten workers, ranging in age from children to elderly Hallsville residents, began work about 8:30 a.m. Saturday on the piece of ground marked out for the community garden, just north of U.S. 80 on the west side of the town.

In addition to the onions, organizers hope to plant tomatoes, okra, squash and corn to be ready in time for a fall harvest.

Holman said much of the food grown would go to support Hallsville Outreach, and the remainder would be given away or sold at a low cost.

"I don't remember anything being done by the community like this," said Mayor Jerri Medrano, who grew up in Hallsville and said she is excited by the prospect of a community garden.

"Oh yeah, I am a big supporter of it. ... I think it is going to help a lot of people out," Medrano said. "I also think it will bring together people who have never met and don't have another reason to meet."

The idea for the community garden came from Hallsville resident Rod Wilson, who said the idea for the community garden originated this past year when he grew his own garden.

"With the price of groceries about to go up, we want to do something about the hurt people might feel," Wilson said.

He said he anticipates people might be tempted to sneak in and steal the produce, but said that since the food would be given away, people should be patient.

The garden is built on the land of Bob Kelsy, who loaned the 100-foot wide and 250-foot long plot of land for the garden.

The fertilizer was donated by Texas A&M University.

Wilson said those starting the garden have had to invest financially in seed, onion bulbs and equipment, and that contributions of volunteer hours or money would help the garden grow.

Brooks Meyer, 16, a junior at Hallsville High School, spent the day planting onion bulbs to earn community service hours for the society.

"I think I will probably come back and help as they continue to plant," Meyer said.

Brooks' father, John Meyer, said he was happy to have the opportunity to serve with his son.

"I was looking for a way to invest in the community. I am excited about what it can do for the people of Hallsville," John Meyer said. "I love serving with him. It gives me a feeling that I am doing something right."

Organizers said they hope to continue planting in the next few weeks to allow time for crops to grow by early fall and ask that community members pitch in.

Longview has a Community Garden Network, with gardens at Newgate Mission, East Side Christian Church, SeeSaw Children's Place and Church in the Wind as well as First Baptist Church Longview, St. Andrew Presbyterian, St. Michael's All Angels Episcopal and St. Mary's School, said Brenda Day-Bevis, executive director of the Stragent Foundation that helped in the network's creation.

"Community gardens not only provide healthy food, they build community, offer opportunity for physical activity because they get people outside," Day-Bevis said.

"Community gardens encourage people to work together and transform a vacant lot into a place of accomplishment and peace."



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