To grow a garden is to believe in tomorrow. When people come together to plant seeds, it helps the entire community reap the harvest. For years, St. Francis Vegetable Garden has provided and maintained a vigorous space for neighborhood-level social change while providing the community with nourishing foods. With three locations, the St. Francis Vegetable Garden’s mission is to help the communities of Houma and Thibodaux by growing community vegetable gardens and donating the produce to local food banks. The organization also partners with parents and teachers, providing an outdoor science and biology classroom for students, and educates the community on the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
The community garden is most proud of its partnership with the Terrebonne Churches United Food Bank, a local food pantry whose mission is to fight against hunger by helping families in need through local food, monetary donations, and charitable organizations. St. Francis Vegetable Garden Coordinator Cheryl Skinner said that while working as a volunteer with TCU she and a few of her peers noticed a lack of produce included in the food boxes and decided to take action. “About seven years ago, there were a few people in Thibodaux who got together and decided that the food banks weren’t getting enough fresh fruit and vegetables. So they got together and formed a non-profit organization, which turned out to be St. Francis Vegetable Garden. The clients love the fresh fruits and vegetables! It’s really important because the fresher the vegetable, the more nutritious it is versus a canned vegetable,” Cheryl explained.
St. Francis Vegetable Garden continues to recruit volunteers that want to roll up their sleeves, and plant seeds for fresh fruit and vegetables and tend to the crops as they grow. In the spring, they grow tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, cucumber, and green beans. In the fall, they grow cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. While the community gardens provide fresh produce through the TCU Food Bank, it also educates the community on how to grow, harvest, and preserve their fruits and vegetables through a program offered by the garden. “We have several programs where volunteers come along and teach participants what they need to know. Not only do we grow and hand out produce to the food bank, but we also teach people,” Cheryl added.
St. Francis Vegetable Garden plans to continue serving the community by expanding and getting families more involved in gardening. Cheryl shared, “We plan to grow the gardening program this year; we want to incorporate families more. If I can get a mom and her three kids that want to learn how to garden, we’ll teach them how to plant and cook as well. We’re expanding so we can have an even greater harvest and more people can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.”
In the coming months, St. Francis Vegetable Garden will be adding a new location to its list of community gardens and launching its Greauxing at Home Program, a four-week series that teaches people not only how to grow organic vegetables, but also how to harvest, cook, and preserve them. Cheryl encourages members of the community to put their hands in the soil and help plant the seeds that will nurture the community. “We’re a volunteer-based organization, so if anyone wants to volunteer they’re more than welcome and we’re always accepting donations of seeds.”