Located on 10 acres of a reclaimed lignite mine near Jewett, Texas, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will provide 10,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to help alleviate food insecurity in Leon, Freestone, and Limestone Counties. NRG, Texan by Nature (TxN), and community partners officially unveiled the garden with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 2, 2022, where 80+ individuals gathered to celebrate the opening.
The garden, which includes a wetland area, pollinator habitat, and a future orchard is an initiative of positiveNRG, NRG Energy’s philanthropic arm, and is managed by Texan by Nature. Additional garden partners include Texas Master Gardeners, Texas A&M Agriculture Extension, and the local food pantry coalition.
According to the USDA, the tri-county area surrounding the garden is considered a food desert. Many residents live over ten miles from the nearest grocery store. Food insecurity rates in the region are 51% higher than the national average. The garden will provide produce to local food pantries, supplying healthy food for up to an estimated 3,000 people every year. Garden managers surveyed and collaborated with local food pantry leaders to determine foods of highest need, including potatoes, beans, green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, peaches, plums, pears, strawberries, and blueberries.
“Most of our clients are unable to regularly buy fresh fruits and vegetables, due to the cost. Thanks to the support of NRG and Texan by Nature, the garden will be a true blessing for all of us,”
-Kathleen Buchanan of Lord’s Pantry of Leon County
The project’s roots go back to 2019 when NRG approached Texan by Nature to collaborate on ways to enhance the conservation mission of its lignite mine reclamation project for the benefit of the communities around Jewett, Texas. This conversation resulted in extensive research by the TxN team and ultimately a recommendation to use the land to alleviate food insecurity in the area.
“Beyond our standard reclamation practices, we wanted to find a way to benefit the community over the long term. We’re excited to partner with Texan by Nature to realize this vision in a special community that’s been part of the NRG family for 40 years,”
-Chris Moser, executive vice president of operations of NRG Energy
Although the ground was first broken on the NRG garden in May of 2021, the land has been at work through the reclamation process for over a decade. In 2013, the Jewett Mine site was awarded the coveted Texas Lone Star Land Steward Award for reclamation activities at the site before being purchased by NRG in 2020. Reclamation accomplishments at the mine include planting 3,500 acres of native bunch-grasses and constructing 700 acres of wetlands, which provide habitat and water to native wildlife and pollinators. The garden’s design also incorporates native pollinator plants to attract bees, butterflies, and support a healthy ecosystem for the garden and surrounding areas. The NRG mine staff also used their ingenuity to reuse materials no longer in use at the mine, such as PVC pipes, tanks, and a solar array that were repurposed for use in the garden.
In addition to the benefits for people and natural resources, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will be an educational field trip and project site for local K-12 schools, 4-H, and FFA programs. Students will learn about agriculture, ecosystems, and nutrition through hands-on opportunities at the garden.
“The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is an excellent – and replicable – example of a diverse set of partners coming together for big impact. This project creates an immense, multi-community impact for years to come, and we’re proud to act as the central connector to achieve the vision of this garden.”
– Amy Snelgrove of Texan by Nature
TxN is proud to be working with NRG, the Dewey Prairie Garden partners, and members of the community who made this project possible. Rooted in purpose, we wait for the first harvest and look forward to seeing the positive impact the garden will have on people, prosperity, and natural resources in the community for years to come.
Learn more about the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden here: https://texanbynature.org/projects/nrg-dewey-prairie-garden/