From our classes and trainings to Spread the Harvest and the Teaching Garden, all of SFC's Grow Local programs depend on the work, support and insight of volunteers. Each planting season, SFC's Grow Local offers free, introductory food gardening classes at apartment complexes, schools, community centers and places of worship around the city. We also offer free school and community garden leadership trainings at SFC. Many participants have young children and cannot afford childcare, so we lean on volunteers to watch and entertain children during these events. Sometimes, volunteers read, draw or play with children. More often than not, however, children want to garden, and our volunteers play an essential role in ensuring that both youth and adults have safe, enjoyable and educational gardening experiences.
Every single component of Spread the Harvest depends on volunteers for its success. A unique program that seeks to reduce financial barriers to food gardening, Spread the Harvest provides Central Texas gardeners with free seeds, plants, compost and fertilizer. Seeds are ordered in bulk and must be repackaged for distribution. Throughout the year, dozens of volunteers spend hours of their time packaging and labeling over 10,000 seed packets. At our Resource Give-Away Days, during which we distribute compost and plants, we rely on dozens more volunteers to provide assistance to event attendees, ensuring that Spread the Harvest members receive their full share of resources, answering questions about plants, and helping shovel compost and load it into cars and trucks. The volunteers who work as receptionists at SFC’s office ensure that gardeners have access to materials throughout the year by guiding visiting Spread the Harvest members to our seed library and fertilizer stash.
Volunteers also help us care for SFC's Grow Local Teaching Garden. Every week, volunteers assist the Teaching Garden Coordinator with weeding, watering, planting, thinning, organic pest control and harvesting. They bring years of experience growing food in Central Texas and offer invaluable gardening tips, such as how to nurse tomato plants through our late summers and how to rid the garden of invasive fire ants. Some volunteers even save seeds from their own gardens to share. Thanks to their support, we are able to provide visiting youth with harvesting opportunities and gardening students with hands-on learning opportunities. We are even able to donate produce to local food banks.
Equally important to SFC's Grow Local mission are volunteers who work autonomously of SFC, supporting school and community gardens. Try as we might, we cannot be at every garden all the time. Instead, we rely on the many volunteers who devote their free time to developing school and community gardens by building the soil, planting fruit trees, constructing trellises, installing irrigation and rainwater catchment systems, and letting us here at SFC's Grow Local know what we can do to support their efforts.
From the bottom of our hearts, we are grateful for the volunteers that help us spread SFC's Grow Local vision far and wide -- empowering children and adults in Central Texas to grow their own food.