How To Feed 3000 Texans by Amy Snelgrove

Texan by Nature

Tag Archive: NRG Dewey Prairie Garden

  1. How to Feed 3000 Texans

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    How far away is your nearest grocery store? For most Texans, the answer is “up the street” or “around the corner”. For others, the distance must be measured in dozens of miles. Chances are the folks in the latter group may live in a food desert and, consequently, experience food insecurity.

    Various spicy and bell peppers harvested from the garden

    Peppers harvested from the garden. Photo: Texan by Nature

    Food insecurity is the lack of regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and to support an active and healthy lifestyle. It impacts about four million people in our state, or 1 in 8 Texans. If you aren’t personally facing food insecurity, there’s a good chance that someone you know is. For Texans in the communities surrounding Jewett, TX, this statistic is even more stark, with food insecurity rates that are 51% higher than the national average. These rural towns, about 60 miles east of Waco, were once home to a 35,000-acre lignite coal mine. In 2018, NRG Energy decided to close the mine and refocus resources on the land reclamation efforts that began in 1986. To date, NRG has replanted 3,500 acres with native grasses, is creating 700 acres of wetlands, and has fully reclaimed 5,590 acres at the Jewett mine. But there was an incredible opportunity to do more. In 2019, NRG reached out to Texan by Nature for help in researching a conservation project that would benefit the greater community and the rest is history in the making!

    Strawberries harvested from the garden.

    Strawberries harvested from the garden. Photo: Texan by Nature

    Since its first harvest, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden has provided ~2 tons of fresh produce to 6 area food banks.
    There’s a lot to glean from feeding 3,000 Texans a year. Check out the lessons we learned while building a community garden!

    Water is a precious resource
    Water conservation makes dollars and sense. As one of our most precious resources, water along with its management takes an investment of time and money. Thankfully this is one investment with guaranteed returns! Every dollar invested in the professional design, installation, and maintenance of irrigation systems will pay you back in multiple ways including, more efficient yields, reduced utility costs, increased production, and more!

    A picture of carrots harvested from the garden Credit:Texan by NatureCarrots harvested from the garden. Photo: Texan by Nature

    It takes a village
    The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is one acre, just under the size of a football field. And like any gridiron victory, success takes hard work from people on the ground and off. A strong cadre of farm volunteers and staff bring their passion and experience to help the Garden thrive while partners and connectors bring financial resources and active networks that help the Garden grow. The most crucial part of a community garden is the community, so be sure to cast a wide net and get everyone involved!

    Group photo of garden staff with NRG employee volunteers in front of a raised garden bed at the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden. Photo: Texan by Nature
    Group photo of garden staff with NRG employee volunteers in front of a raised garden bed at the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden. Photo: Texan by Nature

    Give yourself grace
    No sense in crying over spilled Malabar spinach! The East Texas weather did a number on the Garden’s infrastructure. From blown-over port-a-potties to surprise freezes and floods, maintaining the Garden certainly kept us on our toes. As the project blooms into its full capacity, we will be sure to add a budget line for Mother Nature.

    These valuable lessons helped us identify potential avenues of growth. In the coming years, we aim to establish an internship program, incorporate more fruit into our distribution, and expand our network of partners invested in the success of the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden.

    Red Leaf Lettuce harvested from the Garden. Photo: Texan by Nature

    Our vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    We can’t ensure our neighbors have enough to eat without your help. Sign up for the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden newsletter to learn more about how you can get involved and get updates on what’s “growing on” at the garden!