Food is Free Project continues to promote community through gardening events


Skylar Isdale

Volunteers of the Food is Free organization work together Saturday afternoon to build wicking bed gardens, which require minimal watering. The group hopes the project will promote self-sustainability and environmental consciousness in Austin neighborhoods.

David Maly

The Austin-based Food is Free Project hosted their third volunteer event Saturday with the planting of “wicking bed” gardens along Joe Sayers Avenue.

The organization was originally founded by UT alumnus John Edwards in November. The group is working to spread wicking bed gardening, a type of gardening that requires reduced care, to as many communities as possible. The group is recording the steps taken to put these gardens along Joe Sayers Avenue, so they can use the street as a model for other communities wishing to spread gardening throughout their area.

The goal of the project is to spread a sense of community through neighborhood gardening, while promoting self-sustainability and environmental consciousness, Edwards said.

The method of wicking bed gardening implemented by the organization is unique, as it only needs to be watered every two to four weeks.

“This way virtually anyone can have a garden despite time constraints,” said event volunteer Angelique Watson.

Edwards said he began the project by planting a wicking bed garden at his home on Joe Sayers Avenue and placing a dry-erase board asking for those interested in planting a garden to share their contact information.

“I then took that contact information and used it to organize our first volunteer event, which took place Jan. 21,” he said.

The turnout was impressive, he said, with more than 30 people attending. In response to online media Edwards posted about the project, there has been interest from people in 12 different states and two other countries. Edwards said this led him to realize that a step-by-step guide was the best way to spread the idea of establishing community wicking bed gardening.

The organization has been funded completely by donations from local salvage yards, gardening shops and private donors, Edwards said.

Troy Smith, owner of local gardening shop Brite Ideas, said his belief in the project helped him in deciding to fund the organization.

“Right off the bat the bringing together of communities is the most important aspect of the initiative,” he said.

Also, Smith said he particularly supported the project due to its practical design.

“I’ve seen it a million times,” he said. “Someone down the road plants a garden, and soon everyone on the block has one. The project’s idea of neighborhood–by-neighborhood implementation seems like something that will really work.”

Dustin Fedako, UT 2011 alumnus, said he sees rapid expansion in the project’s future.

“The initiative is accomplishing so many things,” he said. “It’s providing healthy food to people, saving them money, bringing them together and making gardening easy. I have huge hopes for this.”

Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Food is Free Project promotes simplified gardening