FORT WORTH -- On two once-vacant lots owned by the city, Susan Harper tends to her own small plot of vegetables in the Fairmount National Historic District's community garden.
Harper, 67, who helps run the garden, has planted corn, carrots, parsnips, peas and tomatoes.
"I can eat fresh corn on the cob whenever I want," Harper said. "The tomatoes have been great this year. Have you ever had a fresh-picked tomato straight out of a garden? There's nothing quite like it."
Leased by 60 area residents, gardeners must pay $35 annually for their plot, and there's a waiting list for spaces. The garden isn't limited to Fairmount. There are gardeners from Ryan Place, Mistletoe Heights and even downtown who have their own plots.
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But the community garden has captured attention far beyond the south side of Fort Worth; it has also brought nationwide recognition.
In May, Fairmount was named one of three Neighborhoods of the Year by Neighborhoods USA.
It won in the category of social revitalization/neighborliness, but the neighborhood didn't do it by itself. Getting the garden started took the help of numerous city departments, Councilman Joel Burns, TCU and a $2,500 grant from Home Depot.
"I think Fort Worth is basically a very involved city in a number of ways," Harper said.
"I think we won in part because so many different entities were involved -- everything from the university to business organizations to the city to the neighborhood itself."
Two other Fort Worth neighborhoods were also runners-up in the same category.
The Oakhurst Neighborhood finished second and the North Beverly Hills Neighborhood Association finished fourth.
"We had three Fort Worth neighborhoods which were finalists in the Social Revitalization/Neighborliness category," said Libby Willis, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods.
"It's just nice for Fort Worth neighborhoods to be recognized on a national scale for the work they do."
Fort Worth has historically performed well at annual awards. In 2006, the Garden of Eden Neighborhood won the Grand Prize Neighborhood of the Year Award.
Since the community garden opened last year, Harper has given talks to other neighborhoods about creating community gardens. But she isn't sure if the community garden trend will continue to grow.
Under the terms with the city, Fairmount pays $1 to lease the two empty lots.
The five-year lease started last year.
Once it expires, the neighborhood has three, one-year lease renewal options.
"I'm hoping it's a long-term thing, but things ebb and flow," Harper said. "During World War II, community gardens were all the rage, but after the war they waned so you never know. But for now, I would they're definitely still gaining steam here in Fort Worth."
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698