More and more neighbors are now growing their own food

I was preparing lunch for my son one day and pulled a fresh green cucumber from the fridge, which I’d just purchased at a local grocery store. I sliced into it and took a bite. It was horrible. I couldn’t figure out why it tasted so bad. I talked to the produce manager at Whole Foods a few days later and he explained to me that regular fruits and vegetables are treated with synthetic pesticides, which can be absorbed in trace amounts, thus causing the bitter flavor.

Buying organic can definitely be a little more expensive, but considering my recent experience and my quest to become healthier, I justified that it was worth the extra cost. I also began thinking about alternatives to these higher costs, such as planting my own organic garden. I didn’t know if I could do it, so I asked a few of my Preston Hollow neighbors who grow or produce their own food. With gardens, chickens and bees buzzing about me, it’s like living on a farm right in the middle of the big city.

Growing gardens

Gardeners come in all ages. Margaret Hunter, 17, is gardening for the benefit of the birth moms at Edna Gladney Center for Adoption. Hunter, who was adopted by her family at 10 days old in 1998, completed her Silver Award for Girl Scouts a few years ago, by making welcome bags for the birth moms there. For her Girl Scout Gold Award, she recently raised about $300 to create a garden on wheels to teach birth moms about healthy eating. With help and advice from Northhaven Gardens, she purchased ready-to-go plants including basil, rosemary, lettuce, Swiss chard and tomatoes. She also supplied healthy recipes with the delivery.

The St. Luke’s Community Garden at Royal Lane and Jamestown includes 28 raised beds that stretch 4 by 16 feet. Led by Preston Hollow neighbor Sally Duernberger, organic gardeners grow tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, corn, carrots and asparagus in the spring/summer season, and greens, beets, cauliflower and broccoli in the fall/winter months. Gardeners are encouraged to donate at least 10 percent of what they grow to North Dallas Shared Ministries. The cost to participate is $50 per plot for April-September and October-March, which helps cover water and supplies. “Once you find the joy of being part of the cycles of nature and get your hands in the dirt, you will be hooked,” says Duernberger.

When Allyson Raskin designed her house, she made sure it included a garden. It’s important to her to show her children how food grows and to keep as many chemicals out of their food as possible. They grow just about anything they will eat including squash, watermelon, zucchini, sugar snap peas and broccoli, to name a few. “I love how much my children appreciate it. It gets us outside more and really relaxes me. Even our guinea pig enjoys the veggies we grow,” Raskin says. She also started a meat co-op last year with a rancher who provides grass-fed meats free of hormones. Any neighbor is welcome to participate and there aren’t any fees — you can just purchase meat as needed and it’s delivered weekly. Learn more on Raskin’s healthy living website,

In the roost

Shelly Wilfong and her family have been raising chickens for a year in Russwood Acres. She loves having fresh eggs, which is perfect for their family of four. Their five hens, all named after comediennes, Betty White, Mae West, Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur and Minnie Pearl, eat a non-GMO, non-soy feed from Trinity Market that’s milled in the Hill Country.

Wilfong’s advice to would-be chicken raisers is to attend one of the local chicken-keeping classes (Northaven Gardens and Trinity Haymarket have them). She also suggests going on one of the local coop tours, making sure you have adequate space and investing in a coop that is predator-proof and easy to clean.

Mary Stack started raising chickens as part of a home-schooling science project for her children nearly nine years ago. “Raising chickens was a great way to have a good relationship with my quietest child,” Stack says. Her chickens produce anywhere from 13 to 25 eggs every day and she’s even given some fertile eggs to a kindergarten class at St. Rita where the kids got to watch six eggs hatch.

All the buzz

Jaynie Schultz and her neighbor Councilman Lee Kleinman both have bee hives. Neither are actual beekeepers but use a family company called Healthy Home Honey to manage the hives and process the honey. Schultz has had her two hives for about 18 months, and they have produced two clusters of honey, 30 and 60 pounds, respectively. Friends with severe allergies swear her local honey helps ease their suffering.

Kleinman has had one beehive for about a year, kept near the garden in his side yard. His small orchard of fruit trees includes peach, pear, apple and cherry, all suited for North Texas, which the bees help pollinate.

After talking to many people and doing some research, I decided to jump in and plant my own garden. I planted kale seeds, green onion seeds and the roots of a strawberry plant, all in organic soil. I also purchased some starter plants including a blueberry, tomatoes and cucumbers. Now I feel like I’m part of this new growing group of family, friends and neighbors who are growing their own food.