Explore Houston's oldest community garden in Third Ward

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Did you know the oldest community garden in Houston is in the Third Ward neighborhood?

Alabama Gardens was founded 35 years ago as a way to provide food for the elderly.

"Most of them were maids, so when they retired, they received very little money and they would run out, maybe the 20th [or] 22nd [of the month]," explained coordinator J.D. Green. "That's when Alabama Gardens came in with food."



Green has been the garden's coordinator since his friend and original founder, Verious Smith, died in 1996.

"Just the idea that you're helping someone," Green explained. "We are strictly organic here. You've been to the stores, you see what organic food costs. You know [most people] can't afford it."

The garden has since grown to more than an acre of land.

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Residents pay $5 a month to grow whatever they want, which, in the summer, means mostly okra and peppers.

Gardeners get to take whatever fruits and vegetables they need, and the rest is donated to local nonprofits, such as the SHAPE Community Center, which is located nearby. Those in need can also stop by to see what's available.

Although there have been recent improvements in the neighborhood, including a new H-E-B, Third Ward has struggled to attract major fresh food markets and grocery stores.

During the pandemic, they said the need is rising.

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"We're trying to change that," said master gardener Terry Garner. "People can supplement their diet by coming out here and getting fresh fruits and vegetables."

Alabama Gardens is affiliated with Urban Harvest, the national organization that encourages community gardening to feed the poor. Of the 53 plots available, about 20 have temporarily closed due to coronavirus concerns.

Gardeners who are still able to safely come out are now spacing out appointments to limit large groups during certain times.

"Gardening teaches you so much. It teaches you discipline. It gives you that structure you need," Garner explained. "You almost have those flashbacks of our forefathers, [and] how they started out as farmers."

For more information, start by visiting the Urban Harvest website.

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