Features Social Justice/Advocacy

Profile: Southside Community Garden

Written by Mindia Whittier

Name of Organization: Southside Community Garden, an initiative of By Any Means 104

Type of Organization: 501C3 

Leadership: Patrice Jones, Founder; Alison Pope, Co-Founder

Board Members: Dr. Michael E. Brooks, Brenda Patton, Sara Fairley-Luna, Amy Meade, Dr. Bradley J. Borougerdi, Hon. Mary Ellen Hicks

Year Founded: 2020 

Geographic Region Served: 76104 zip code (located in Fort Worth)

Annual Budget: $25,000

Number of Staff:

Number of Volunteers: 200+

Organizational Mission: Southside Community Gardens works toward restoring the relationship between food consumption and food growing. The organization follows a “teach to fish” philosophy: it is focused on the learning process, with each household participating in the gardening process from seedling to whole tomato. Organizers of Southside Community Garden believe access to healthy food is a right and knowing how to grow food is one path. The movement was started from an awareness that racism directly impacts the health and diet of Black and brown people worldwide, and food autonomy is a vital part of achieving justice.

Origin: Southside Community Gardens founder Patrice Jones and co-founder Alison Pope met during the George Floyd uprising while protesting and speaking out at City Hall in 2020. In July of that year, Jones organized a mural to be created in honor of Atatiana Jefferson, who was murdered in her home in the 76104 zip code by former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean the year before. 

During preparation for the mural, Jones noticed a lack of access to healthy snacks needed to feed volunteers while they were working on the public art project. Pope researched the area and discovered news articles published in 2018 which showed the area suffered from food apartheid, and has the lowest life expectancy in the state of Texas – both of which are the direct effects of systemic racism. The area has no grocery stores, health clinics or pharmacies, and the life expectancy in 76104 is 12 ½ years younger than the state average. Jones sought to change that and improve well-being in the community – by any means necessary. 

From this need, an idea emerged to build home gardens so members of the community could access fresh fruits and vegetables without requiring transportation. 

Programs and Services: Southside Community Garden is the inaugural program of By Any Means 104. It is a network of home gardeners, partners, and organizers who share a passion and commitment for growing vegetables, learning sustainability, and promoting justice through food. Through community support and solidarity, garden materials are provided at no cost to home gardeners in the 76104 zip code of Fort Worth to build a raised-bed garden. Volunteers help with the construction and initial planting. Home gardeners are the primary caretaker of their garden, and keep the food they grow. Partners donate their time and gardening expertise throughout the growing season to support home gardeners in the learning process. To date, 50 gardens have been built in front and back yards throughout the area served. 

Formative Moment: The first raised-bed garden built was in February 2021 for James Smith, the neighbor of Atatiana Jefferson who made a non-emergency call to Fort Worth Police Department requesting a wellness check for his neighbor the night she was murdered. Mr. Smith was ecstatic to have his garden built, to be able to finally have a place of peace at this home – in his backyard. After the murder of Atatiana, he no longer wanted to be on his front porch and see the home of the victim of police brutality. 

Recent Highlight: Southside Community Garden was featured on the front page of the Star-Telegram on Earth Day 2021, and received a resolution from the Texas House of Representatives in the Spring of 2022. Another highlight was the final spring-season build-day on June 30. Organizers were joined by three active City Council members, employees from American Airlines and Marc Veasey with the United States Congress Office to construct the season’s final raised bed gardens. 

Funding Model: Southside Community Gardens is primarily funded through crowd-sourced, community-based donations. A grant has been received from United Way of Tarrant/BraveR Together. 

Challenges: The nonprofit sector needs blueprints for how to start and operate long-sustaining nonprofits and provide equitable solutions for people of color. 

Future Vision: Organizers would like to connect residents in 76104 with all things healthcare-related to combat disease and counter the miseducation that leads to early demise. 

Organizational Culture: Volunteers who help build the raised gardens and support the home gardeners routinely speak about how peaceful, therapeutic and enlightening their experience was. All the volunteers have come out more than once to help build gardens.

Short and Long-Term Goals: In the next 12 months, Southside Community Gardens wants to ensure its home gardeners have the support necessary to maintain their gardens, from resources to additional monetary support for utility expenses (as needed). The organization also wants to secure space to house materials used for the garden builds, and secure transport for gardening items such as soil, tools, plants and wheelbarrows. A priority is to secure funding for operational support, including the salaries for the Executive Director and Garden Manager. Within 5 years, the organization’s leaders seek to be established in a physical location offering wrap-around support to the community of 76104, such as mental health support, access to financial services that close the wealth gap, safety intervention in lieu of emergency police services and more. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Southside Community Gardens, an initiative of By Any Means 104, is a Black-led organization. Its organizers center racial equity in both mission and action by empowering clients to lead the improvement of their well-being. Through volunteer training, each person who engages with the organization is made critically aware of systemic racism and how to engage the community with cultural competency rather than white saviorism. Garden partners are provided training on the race-based causes of the issues in the 76104 community, such as the impact that redlining had on creating a food apartheid landscape. 

Website: www.southsidecommunitygarden.com

About the author

Mindia Whittier