Community gardens provide us with important access to fresh food in this time of social distancing and economic challenge. Please see the message below from Jennifer Steverson, the City of Austin’s new Community Garden Program Coordinator, for information and guidelines about how to stay safe, continue gardening, and help share our harvest with others.
Hello Community Gardeners!
I am writing with some information and updates related to the COVID-19 concerns that may be helpful in maintaining safe practices in your community gardens and at home. Please know that we are limiting communications to COVID-related messaging at this point to focus attention on the most important needs and to minimize distraction; however, we hope to be able to provide more/broader information soon. I look forward to meeting you all and working with you! Here are the updates related specifically to the Austin Community Gardens Program, and I have included general resources and information from the City related to COVID-19 below:
City of Austin COVID-19 Updates: http://austintexas.gov/COVID19
Stay at Home – Work Safe Order: http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=337824
Stay at Home – Work Safe Order and Community Gardens
I know that there are a lot questions about how the Stay at Home Ordinance will impact community gardens. The ordinance outlines Essential Activities that are permitted and Essential Businesses during this time. Essential Businesses includes Food Cultivation and Charitable Organizations. You will have access to your gardens during the Stay at Home Order. Please review Section 6-F of the order for more details.
Essential Activities “. . .Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following, “Essential Activities.” These essential activities include:
i. For Health and Safety. Individuals may engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets) . . .”
ii. For Necessary Supplies and Services. Individuals may obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, groceries and food . . .”
Essential Businesses include: “Stores that sell Groceries and Certain Other Essential Supplies. Grocery stores, supermarkets . . .farmers’ markets, food banks . . .”
iii. Food Cultivation. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing
iv. Social Services and Charitable organizations. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
Social Distancing Recommendations and Guidelines for Community Gardeners
Please remember to maintain a safe distance when working in the community garden, and follow the guidelines recommended by the CDC and Austin Public Health:
- Maintain social distancing of at least six feet or more
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Please keep disinfectant, soap or hand sanitizer in the garden to assist with cleaning and disinfecting. For more specific information on the requirements go the City of Austin website.
- Please also remember to disinfect tools and surfaces including gate handles, and shed door handles, and hose bibs that are in common areas before and after use.
- Communicate within your community garden: Please use the bulletin boards and message centers in your gardens to communicate with each other as needed.
- If you have gardeners who are elderly, consider designating garden times specifically for them so that they can minimize contact with others.
- Please also consider calling or texting your members to check on them and see if they need support.
- Consider creating a schedule if needed to maintain social distancing, especially when it comes to caring for chickens and bees.
Increase Yields and Donate to Local Emergency Food Providers
Here are some online resources that can help you learn more about increasing productivity in the garden and preserving your harvest, which will be extremely helpful in the coming weeks and season. Please consider planting additional food for yourself and to share with those in your neighborhood who may be in need. Please see some links below.
Agrilife Online Classes: Introduction to Plant Disease Diagnostics
Sharing the Harvest Resources
- Donate Produce Locally: https://connectatx.unitedwayaustin.org/
- ATX Emergency Food Systems Crisis Collaboration https://atxemergencyfoodsystems.trydiscourse.com/t/welcome-to-the-atx-emergency-food-systems-crisis-collaboration/7/2
I will reach out again soon with information on more resources. Please feel free to reach out to each other to share best practices. I’m always available to answer questions.
Jennifer Steverson, Environmental Program Coordinator
Community Gardens Program| Natural Resources Division
Learn more about the Community Gardens Program at