Bedford garden expected to grow into something special

BEDFORD -- Four pink flamingos mark Linda Eilenfeldt's green space.

The plastic birds draw attention to the Bedford Community Garden on a hill overlooking Industrial Boulevard and Trinity High School.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant recently approved by the Bedford City Council, donations from several area businesses and the labor of many volunteers, the garden will soon have something a lot more prominent. An 1,800-square-foot structure will include a gazebo pavilion, a storage shed and a trellis arbor, each about 600 square feet.

The shed will give gardeners a place to lock away their tools. The arbor will support grapes and other vines. And the pavilion will be a classroom where Tarrant County Master Gardener Annette Lee and other experts will teach anyone who wants to garden.

The community garden -- just north of 6 Stones Mission Network -- is on the southwest corner of 3 acres owned by First Baptist Church of Euless. Its 77 raised beds for lease ranging from 32 to 64 square feet.

Scott Sheppard, director of 6 Stones, a nonprofit that works with churches and other entities to help needy people in Hurst, Euless and Bedford, estimated that the new building would cost about $80,000 if not for the donations.

Bedford Councilman Roger Fisher said the $10,000 grant from the city's beautification fund is a good investment and isn't tax money. The fund has about $36,000 and receives annual $10,000 contributions from Allied Waste.

"Five years from now when the plots are extended into the next field, the 15 fruit trees that were just planted are grown and the rest of the area is covered in flowers, this will be a community centerpiece," he said.

Eilenfeldt is leading an effort to encourage people to grow their own food and donate half of what they produce to the New Hope food pantry, which is part of 6 Stones.

"The plan is to provide food for the clients of 6 Stones who can't grow for themselves," she said.

Working since May, the community garden's early-bird growers have been harvesting fall produce since Christmas, Lee said. The official opening will be a March 17 spring planting with classes and training sanctioned by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Bedford Beautification Committee Chairman Michael Boyter said that part of the AgriLife mandate is to teach people to feed themselves.

"This is now a certified teaching and training facility for the Tarrant County Master Gardeners Association and AgriLife," he said. He added that the gardens create opportunities not only for teaching people, but also for folks to get to know their neighbors.

Sheppard said the secret to success with such an enterprise is mobilizing neighbors. "This is changing a community," he said.

On Wednesday, Eilenfeldt planted spinach, lettuce, beets and snap peas in her plot. Lee set strawberry and red onions into dirt-filled holes in cinderblocks bordering the bed.

Sheppard watched.

"I'm involved from a leadership standpoint, but I won't have a plot out there myself," he said. "My wife, Tammy, will, but I have a black thumb."

Lee said anyone can learn.

"We'll teach people how to be better stewards of their resources," she said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @NETarrantNews