Mid County Victory Garden encourages organic, homegrown food

Mid County Victory Garden encourages organic, homegrown food
Desiree McPhillips

Mid County’s Victory Garden may have started last year, but the retro name harkens back to the World War II homefront. 

Desiree McPhillips, the organizer, said this was intentional. “We liked the imagery of the old wartime garden photos,” she explained.

The Mid County Victory Garden is located on Nederland Avenue, just behind the Sheer Madness hair salon. Sheer Madness is McPhillips’s hair salon, which is the only salon in Southeast Texas that offers organic hair dye, she said.   

McPhillips built the garden beds and started planting just over a year ago. She and the other volunteers planted on the first day of spring in 2016 and built the beds the winter before. 

“I have always grown things, mainly flowers, I think I started with cactuses at first, and then with time it evolved into vegetables,” she explained. “Before I started growing vegetables, we changed our eating habits, the whole family. I really liked the idea of being able to grow what we were eating.”

In her search to learn how to grow her own food, she became good friends with David Pool, the manager for Mid County Farm and Feed, who is now on the board of the garden, along with Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine, she added.

“As I started gardening more, you start connecting with people and you realize that there is a need, I was out there searching for information,” she said. “We got together and decided there was a need for it, he’s been teaching classes for years.”

McPhillips said that she wanted to share this knowledge and teach the local community how to grow their own food. The garden is now offering a series of beginner and advanced classes on Saturdays, taught by master gardener David Pool. The next beginner class is March 18 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the two advanced classes will be held April 15 and 29 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

“Our mission is to educate minds and feed the body, so we want people to come and learn how to do this for their own family and see that it’s possible,” she said. 

The garden is celebrating Earth Day on April 21 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with art, music, food and drinks provided by Gather cafe, a paleo cafe that opened in Port Neches recently. Several local green businesses should be there as well, McPhillips said. 

“Some local artists are coming out, they do like recycled art, everything kind of.”

Gather Cafe and Down to Earth, a holistic bath and body store, are some of the garden’s bed sponsors. 

McPhillips said she wants Mid County Victory Garden to be a community project and she encourages volunteers to sign up.

She and other volunteers tend to the plants three mornings every week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. as well as two afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. On the first Saturday of each month, they garden from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

A local troop of Girl Scouts recently visited the garden ford a ladybug release, she said. Twisted Tykes, a local children’s yoga class taught by Melody Butler, typically meets at the Groves Activity Building, but they met in the garden a few weeks ago. 

The teacher thought it would be good to get the kids outside, McPhillips said. “Afterwards, we pulled carrots.”

McPhillips said that she hopes the garden will continue to grow. 

“We have 12 4 x 8 beds at this point. When we planned the whole idea and when we mapped it out, we can fit more beds in,” she said. “We factored in a total of 32 on this property.”

Right now, the Mid County Victory Garden doesn’t pay rent to the land owner who loaned them the property. 

“Everything that is grown and harvested, we donate to the Senior Citizen’s Center in Nederland and Port Neches. We just kind of rotate between the two,” she said. “As we add more beds, we want to offer a program so that the community can have access to it.”

By the end of December 2016, the total produce harvested from the garden that year alone was over 450 pounds, according to McPhillips. 

“I document everything that’s grown, I weigh everything that’s grown, so that people realize that you can definitely provide for your family while doing this and it doesn’t take as much as some people think,” she said. 

Once the season for a certain crop is over, the volunteers replace it with something else. This year so far, they’ve planted tomatoes, beets, broccoli, turnips, parsnips, carrots, spinach, radishes and lettuce. 

“We garden all year long, we haven’t ever stopped growing,” she said. “There are few vegetables that grow continuously.”