By Fatema Biviji
Special to NDG
The excitement in Zoher Bharmal’s voice is undeniable when he describes what it’s like to be a gardener at the Farmers Branch Community Garden. Tending to their plot has become a family activity that has yielded much more than just fruit and vegetables. In fact, the Community Garden has brought this family nourishment of the mind, soul, and body.
After many months of encouragement from Zoher to visit the Community Garden, I was finally able make the trek from Irving. The Garden, located at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, did not disappoint!
Zoher began the tour at the Compost Making Station. He explained that gardeners pitch in to perform the various tasks needed for successful gardening. His daughter Radhiya began trimming down some of the longer stalks in the Compost Bin, while Zoher sifted some of the available soil and compost mixture to remove rocks and clay. The sight of earthworms was a delight as he pointed out that they are purposefully added to the mix.
After saying hello to fellow community gardener Judith, we moved along with our compost in a wheelbarrow towards the Bharmal family’s plot. I was already impressed by the availability of equipment, wheelbarrows, and compost, but seeing a water hose neatly coiled on a stand at each plot was just awe-inspiring!
It was here that Zoher revealed how he learned the many tips he has picked up over the years since he became a community gardener. That is, Farmers Branch Landscape Manager and passionate gardener, Pam Smith, can be found here on most Saturday mornings ready to share advice. Zoher has learned a lot from Ms. Smith and fellow gardeners.
He shows Radhiya and me how to carefully flood the soil around his squash plant so that the dreaded squash bugs can be coaxed out. If left unchecked, they can wreak havoc on gardens. Tiny white eggs on leaves are also a sign of infestation, but he didn’t find any this day.
As we move on towards the fruit trees that belong to the City of Farmers Branch, Zoher compliments fellow gardeners on their successful crop of shiny, huge tomatoes that can be seen glistening from afar. All types of fruit from peaches, to berries. to figs can be found here.
One of the most satisfying aspects of community gardening, according to Zoher, is harvesting excess produce and sharing it with Metrocrest Services. The organization provides nutritious food to those who need it. And so the act of giving comes back full circle to bring great joy to the Bharmal family.
Landscape Manager Pam Smith describes this Community Gardening experience best:
“The Farmers Branch Community Garden is a wonderful collaboration between the Gardeners, the City, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church and Metrocrest Services. It requires passion from all participants and a willingness to share.
• Share the land for the garden.
• Share time and energy to grow and harvest produce.
• Share personnel and fiscal resources to oversee and fund the garden.
• Share an outlet to distribute the produce.
The blessing is that each group and participant only has to share their particular gift and together it makes up the Community Garden.
Families like the Zohers share their gifts so freely. The Zohers work the garden, share monetary gifts and share the garden with outside groups. Others’ gifts may not be as obvious. Another person’s gift might be collecting coffee grounds to create soil building compost.
The important thing is to accept all gifts with thanksgiving and the garden will give with abundance… sometime even with produce! This past week’s harvest yielded over 130 lbs of produce to the food bank!”
The Bharmal family’s experience here is a great example of how community projects benefit so many people in so many ways. I am inspired by how much the gardeners learn from each other and share with each other – all while growing healthy food to eat. Before I go, Zoher hands me some green beans and radishes from his plot, and so I add them to the list of things I have already gained from this trip to the Farmers Branch Community Garden.