Among the cast of reasons people start puncturing their back yards with garden tools and laying out raised beds of manure to launch a garden, one of the most obvious yet overlooked is the supremacy of taste.
Sylvie Shurgot moved from Germany to San Antonio in 1996. A child of Belguim’s rich local markets, she was immediately stung by the lack of fresh produce to be had. “Living here was like a wasteland. It was like, ‘Is that a tomato?’” she said with a laugh.
A co-worker at St. Mary’s University turned the mathematics professor on to some of the local growers he frequented around the city’s fringe, but she had a heck of a time tracking down many of the other foodstuffs she sought. For that reason, she started cataloguing every grower she could find in a 40-mile radius, with 70-mile-distant Fredericksburg thrown in for those pungent peaches.
Today, tracking down a reliable source of greens, beans, and meats, is as simple as clicking on San Antonio Foodshed, the result of her labors.
But her work didn’t stop there. Shugart started gardening in her backyard and later joined a group of East Side residents in creating a community garden this year, funded in part by the seemingly suddenly ubiquitous Green Spaces Alliance.
Last week, she gave me a tour of that Dignowity Hill garden and spoke with me a bit about her reasons for joining the effort, which have come to include the social dynamic the garden facilitated.
“We really get to meet neighbors that we wouldn’t otherwise meet. We work together, plan together,” she said, before pretending to scan the yard for help with some physically taxing chore. “Who’s got big muscles over there?”
I’ll be looking this week and next at the range of reasons San Antonians are digging in the dirt. I hope you find it useful. Feel free to pass along any thoughts.