By Elizabeth McGuire
Meet Katie Falgoust
Like many people, Katie Falgoust spends 40 hours a week working in front of a computer. Unlike many people, when Katie’s not working she is often thinking about vegetables. Or compost. Or mulch. Or water.
Katie is an avid gardener and member of the Festival Beach Community Garden. She serves as the Volunteer and Work Day Coordinator and on the Steering Committee that oversees grants and fundraising. With a background in urban planning and social services, Katie’s skills and passions harmonize with the garden’s mission to serve the community.
A native of New Orleans, Katie has lived in Austin for 12 years and has watched the city—and the community garden—expand and evolve around her. The Festival Beach Community Garden began as El Jardín, in a location on East 2nd St. that now holds condos. In 2010 the city, along with volunteers and organizations like Austin Parks Foundation, helped the garden move to its current home near Lady Bird Lake and I-35.
The Current Garden
“It’s amazing that we are so close to downtown, and that we have so much space,” Falgoust said. “I appreciate that the city is committed to allowing people to garden, and to maintaining this area as an active, productive space.”
Covering two acres, the community garden has 100 member plots, an orchard of fruit trees, a wall of grapevines, and a communal garden. This is all tied together by winding gravel paths, rain gardens and wildlife/pollinator areas. There are thoughtful details such as paved paths and raised beds for gardeners who are in wheelchairs. The garden regularly provides fresh vegetables to a nearby food pantry that serves the public.
The garden’s refreshing beauty in the middle of a dense, urban neighborhood is wonderful, but Falgoust says it’s the people who truly give the garden its spirit.
People Plus Gardens
“One thing I love about the garden is the mix of people who come here,” she said. “There are not a lot of places you can go and get this level of diversity. We have students, professionals, kids, refugees. All levels of education, income and abilities. You can meet people in the community you might not normally meet.”
Members pay $50 a year (or receive a scholarship) for an individual plot, then commit to a certain number of work hours every month. However, the garden also welcomes non-member volunteers hoping to get their hands dirty.
The garden hosts volunteer events year-round, but they especially love participating in APF’s It’s My Park Day because of all the extra support and promotion.
“Being an all-volunteer organization, we don’t have all the perks that APF can offer volunteers,” she said. “And the IMPD volunteers love getting a free T-shirt and snacks! There’s also a special feeling knowing that you are volunteering along with thousands of other people in the city that day…everyone out there to make our parks better.”
Falgoust appreciates that It’s My Park Day allows people to experience a new organization without a big commitment.
“Sometimes just one exposure can plant the seed,” she said. “And that might encourage someone to get more involved. We are always thrilled to share the garden experience with people, and to let them know that we can always use their help.”
To learn more about the garden or to get involved, please visit www.festivalbeachgarden.com/.
People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.