In its second year, the Green Thumbs Initiative aims to provide fresh, locally-grown vegetables for the Stephenville community and is once again calling on those interested to join the cause.

The project focuses on local vegetable production, improved nutrition based on fresh produce and reduction in food waste.

This “community garden” initiative is sponsored by Tarleton State University with help from the Oakdale Methodist Church, Community Garden Committee, the River North Wellness Center and others.

“Last year produce was taken to the senior center along with distributing to those who helped take care of the garden and church members,” states a press release from Oakdale. “It’s a great way to meet like-minded people who have a desire to eat healthy, locally grown food. For those with small yards this is an opportunity to participate in the growing process as a family and as a community.”

The garden is located in the land next to the church at 2675 W. Overhill Dr. in Stephenville (across from the high school).

Work days will be held from 8 a.m.-noon every Saturday.

This project was discussed at the Stephenville City Council meeting back in January when Dr. Don Cawthorn of TSU’s Department of Wildlife, Sustainability and Ecosystem Sciences gave a presentation about the gardens and the grant that was obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for projects in the amount of $294,084.

“The overall outcome will be the development of a food sustainability program, including new courses, through the Department of Wildlife, Sustainability and Ecosystems Sciences,” Cawthorn said at the meeting.

Another garden that’s in operation is located at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital’s “Better Breathers Club” and two more sites are in development at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center and one near Clark Field Municipal Airport.

“TSU and The Green Thumbs Initiative are generously supplying an irrigation system along with plans to help present gardening classes in the near future,” the church’s release states. “River North Wellness Center has also made contributions helping to build planters and this year added special cages so that larger crops of tomatoes may be grown.”

Anyone interested in helping with the garden is welcome to come by on work days.

“This is definitely a community project intended to bring people together and help everyone get a little healthier,” the release states.

An article on the Greenleaf Communities website states that not only are there nutritional and environmental benefits to a community garden, but social benefits.

“Social ties are important to the wellbeing of people in a community since they can bring positive health effects and community involvement,” the article states. “Community gardens allow for the creation of social ties and build a greater community. These connections help reduce crime, empower residents and allow residents to feel safer in their neighborhoods.”

In the past community gardens were quite popular and commonly used to provide food for families year-round.