The Garden That Gives Together

Austin garden thrives on sweat, entrepreneurship and generosity

“You get food, you get exercise, you get vitamin D … it’s a sense of freedom,” says New York native Ila Falvey in a recent article on community gardening from The Philanthropic Enterprise’s Trends in Innovation series. Falvey was recently elected president of Sunshine Community Gardens in Austin, Texas, and has been working a plot for the past 20 years at Sunshine, which is one of the largest community gardens in the country. And one of the most successful in terms of building community while doing good and maximizing its resources. The article explains:

Sunshine runs on sweat, membership dues and an annual plant sale.  Aside from a free loan from the State of Texas to use three acres on the property of the School for the Blind, Sunshine doesn’t receive any outside assistance. Members pay annual dues to rent 220 plots ranging in size from 10’x10’ to 20’x’20’. But the bulk of the funding for the garden comes through an annual plant sale—Austin’s largest plant sale. At $2 a plant, they sell over 300 varieties of organically grown tomatoes and peppers, as well as a range of native and specimen plants.

Members also donate between 50 and 80 pounds of fresh produce a week to a local food bank. More than a half-acre is dedicated to this purpose, and members also give fruits and vegetables from their own gardens. “We’re self-sustaining and we have money left over for good work,” says Nancy Siebert, who coordinates the food bank project. “We don’t get gifts. We give gifts.”

Read the whole article and check out the accompanying stories on food security and nutrition at The Philanthropic Enterprise Trends in Social Innovation at http://


About the Lead Author

Zoe S. Erler
Zoe S. Erler
Zoe S. Erler is the former director of communications at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis.

The Latest

The Story of the Clouds and the Forests

There’s a story one often hears in conversations about systemic transformation that goes like this… We are headed in the...


More Articles Like This