Cook Globally, Grow Locally

Lizzie Martinez, husband Hawkeye Glenn, and son Cosmo Glenn in their garden, which was built by Green Corn Project volunteers.
Lizzie Martinez, husband Hawkeye Glenn, and son Cosmo Glenn in their garden, which was built by Green Corn Project volunteers. (Photo By John Anderson)

The Green Corn Project is a small, innovative nonprofit founded by Austin gardeners Dayna Conner, Shannon Kemp, Jim Walker, and Steve Barney in 1998. The goal of the organization is to build organic food gardens for low-income families, disabled, or elderly citizens in Austin. All the staff members and project managers are volunteers and their support and encouragement of all of the 58 gardens they've built in the past few years is ongoing. One hundred percent of money donated to the Green Corn Project goes directly into a garden. Once a new client has been identified, GPC volunteers assess the potential garden location, begin composting and building soil, and eventually provide seeds, plants, and labor to get the garden planted. During each growing season (there are two per year), the Green Corn folks are available for follow-up advice and help when needed.

One young family that benefits from a Green Corn Project garden is Lizzie Martinez, her husband Hawkeye Glenn, and their 2-year-old son Cosmo. Lizzie's family has had a garden for four growing seasons now and recently relocated it to the yard of their new home. "I dug up and brought as many of my established herb plants as I could," Martinez told me, "and this fall I'm experimenting with lots of greens, things like collards, spinach, and mesclun salad mix. Having a garden has made us much more aware of eating what's in season, and it cuts down on our grocery bills, for sure. The best part, though, is knowing I'm feeding clean organic food to my son." Martinez added that Cosmo loves working in the garden and is currently learning which plants to pull and which to leave alone. She's also grateful she can turn to GCP founder Dayna Conner for gardening advice when she needs it.

The Green Corn Project hopes to eventually make their organic gardens available to anyone who requests assistance, not just those with financial needs or physical challenges. For that kind of expansion, they'll need a paid staff and better funding. Toward that end, they've created a business plan and hired development director Jeff Cohen to find some venture philanthropy dollars. They've also instituted a membership program which solicits yearly donations and they hold an annual fundraiser. Contact GCP at 833-7446 or for more information about donating money or time, getting a garden, becoming a member, or purchasing tickets to the fundraiser.

The Green Corn Project invites Austinites to their third annual fundraiser this Sunday, Oct. 14, from 11am-5pm at Boggy Creek Farm (3414 Lyons). This event is the main source of income used to purchase gardening equipment and supplies, plants, and seeds to build organic gardens for GCP's clients. What better place to celebrate gardening than under the sheltering oaks and pecan trees at Austin's best-known market garden? During the afternoon, local chefs will take to the stage on the farmhouse back porch and provide cooking instruction using fresh, seasonal organic produce. Chefs Patrick Ehemann of the Barr Mansion, Marco Garcia of Curra's Grill, Jean-Luc Salles of the Texas Culinary Academy, Javier Montesinos of Jeffrey's, and Beth Pav of Cooking by Design are scheduled to present demonstrations. Between cooking demos, guests can stroll the tree-shaded yard at the farm, listen to live music and sample culinary creations from the Barr Mansion, Cafe Mundi, Curra's, Gilligan's, Hoover's Cooking, Jean-Luc's Bistro, Mangia Pizza, the Shoreline Grill, Siena, Starlite, Sweetish Hill Bakery/Portabla, and Rather Sweet Bakery. It's a healthy, relaxing, and productive way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the garden without getting dirt under your fingernails or pulling any weeds. Advance tickets are $25 per person and $30 at the door. Free admission for children under 12.

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