St. Francis Vegetable Garden joins the Terrebonne Churches United Food Bank (TCU Food Bank) team! With the organization taking the reins of the gardens, they hope to expand programs beyond what is currently available.
TCU Food Bank has had a relationship with the community garden for years by utilizing produce from the gardens. TCU Food Bank Executive Director Lawrence DeHart said the St. Francis Vegetable Garden is “very good people with a very good heart with a very good vision” and looks forward to helping on the administration side of things. DeHart is looking forward to strengthening the relationship with the Master Gardeners, expanding education, and helping provide resources for people to grow their own gardens at home. He would like to see the gardens double in size and in areas that would make the biggest impact. This will also allow double the production of fresh food, which will, in turn, allow the food bank to offer more fresh foods to the public. The new collaboration will combine resources to provide new programs at the food bank, expand opportunities, and meet goals that the new administration has for the future.
St. Francis Vegetable Garden has 4 locations that cover Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. The main garden is located on Rienzi Drive in Thibodaux. In Houma, there is the Southdown Plantation garden, The Elks Lodge Community Garden, which is located on Coteau Road, and the Main Library Garden located at Terrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma. These gardens provide a living outdoor classroom for teachers and parents to teach their children, support local education on fresh local food, and provide 9,000-12,000 pounds of fresh produce per year. DeHart used the philosophy, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” to describe the mission behind not only some programs the food bank offers, but as a purpose for the St. Francis Vegetable Gardens.
The new merger brings Daisy Cheramie as Manager, where she will focus on marketing, event efforts, and executing innovative ways to expand educational opportunities for residents to be able to provide fresh food. She said education opportunities are what she looks forward to the most. For example, she plans to partner with Master Gardeners with the LSU AgCenter to provide region-specific gardening tips and “how-to’s” for a YouTube Channel. She said she looks forward to using the power of social media to not only better educate the students of the community but the adults as well.
Cheryl Skinner works for the food bank and has been involved with the St. Francis Vegetable Garden for five years. She started as a volunteer and has since moved up to a paid employee. She has extensive knowledge of gardening and has a passion for helping others have fruitful gardening experiences.
Skinner will act as the Garden Coordinator for the gardens, where she will focus on keeping the educational component and organizing volunteers. The garden will still offer the Growing at Home Program, which is offered twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. It is a program they developed with the LSUAg Center that teaches gardening. Skinner said she starts from the very beginning level where they figure out the location of the garden, if a raised bed or row garden is more suitable, and she then teaches how to plant. They then teach how to deal with pests and fungal issues, how to harvest, how to cook fresh food, and how to preserve. They will utilize the food bank facility as the classroom and look forward to the new opportunities.
The growth will bring two part-time positions for 10-20 hours per week, and they are looking for equipment, including tractors. They are eager to continue to spread throughout the Bayou Region and hope to “plant roots” in a community near you!