Getting Dirty at the Concho Garden

APO members Adam King, Yadiri Montoya, Nancy Cifuentes and Caroline Mendelsohn replace gravel in the Concho Community Garden's native vegetation section while others paint the new picnic tables and set up the new area for composting.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth de Regt

Everyone agrees that healthy food is fresh food, but for many college students, fresh veggies and herbs just don’t mesh with the dining hall diet.

Fortunately, just a few minutes from campus, the Campus Environmental Center has created the Concho Community Garden, a community garden where students can grow their own fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. 

“Plot owners and volunteers not only plant veggies, they also plant herbs and ornamentals,” Sahonara Gonzalez, the director of the Concho Garden said. “Currently the veggies in season are cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, some greens, etc. Soon we will be able to plant some of the hotter-season crops like okra, watermelon and cantaloupe.” 

Students have the opportunity to purchase their own plot and can grow their choice of plants. They get to keep anything that they grow.

“My favorite part of working at Concho is harvest time,” Gonzalez said. “There is nothing more delicious than tasting the fruits of your labor. After seeing a little plant go from seed to fruit, one can’t help but grow closer to their food.”

Aside from being a gardening outlet for UT students, the Concho Garden also reaches out to the next generation of Longhorns to teach them about growing food.

“My favorite part [of working at the garden] is Little Gardeners, which we do every Friday morning, where we have kids from the elementary school come and learn about plants, and they have their own plot that they come and work on together,” Melissa Meyer, outreach coordinator for the garden, said. “It’s just really sweet and super rewarding to see them enjoy the garden.”

The Concho Garden is run entirely by student volunteers who maintain their own plots and help with the maintenance of the garden as a whole. 

“I think it’s a great service opportunity for people in organizations that require service hours, or just for people that want to do service on their own,” Meyer said. “They can come to any of our workdays and just start working. We always need help there. They can buy a plot or their organization can buy a plot if they’re interested in that. Those are super inexpensive. I think they’re like $15 to $20, and you get your own plot to grow your own stuff. We might have some open right now, but if we don’t there’s a waitlist and you’ll get one eventually. Or you can just come out to the CEC meetings to learn a little bit more about it.”

Gardening has changed the way some of the garden’s tenants feel about the food they eat.

“Working at the garden has definitely changed the way I think about food,” Gonzalez said. “I was able to see and put in all the work it takes to grow food. I have seen how at the mercy food growers are to the environment and this has given me a greater appreciation for farmers who grow food organically. My food choices have also changed. I now eat more food from the garden and make a choice to buy more organic food despite the cost.”

According to students who frequent the garden, new volunteers will be welcomed with open arms, and no gardening experience is required to help out at the Concho Community Garden.

“If you want to grow your food and check out the garden, I would recommend it,” Chris Tran, who owns his own plot at the garden, said. “Even if you think you don’t have a green thumb. You’ll have lots of help while you’re doing it. For me, the community garden is not really about having that much food. It’s about going out and spending time outside and working on something that you can pick out the ground and feel happy later, while you’re hanging out with friends and enjoying the outdoors.”

Concho Garden Workdays are Thursdays 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information, check out the Concho Gardens Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/utconchocg