New partnership aims to reinvigorate East Texas Food Bank garden

New partnership aims to reinvigorate East Texas Food Bank garden
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 1:32 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 10:10 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The East Texas Food Bank Garden is a partnership between the Smith County Sheriff’s Office and the East Texas Food Bank, and Thursday they added a new partner.

Tyler’s own Texas Organic Compost and Topsoil Blends has now come on board to the sheriff’s garden project along with the previous existing partnership between the sheriff’s office and East Texas Foodbank. The owner, John Soules, Sr., said this garden has been growing produce for many years and is in need of more help.

“We’re actually adding the compost in order to improve the traditional value the soil. Because the yield out of a plant, whether it’s flower or fragrance or peas or corn any of that, yield is dependent upon how much nutrition is in the soil itself,” Soules said.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said the garden has been a place for inmates to give back to the community and have something to work on, and this will help produce more produce.

“As you can see our soil is quite sandy and we haven’t had any rain of significance in quite a while, so that’s going to help keep the moisture exactly where it needs to be on rows. And hopefully we will have a lot more potatoes and squash and tomatoes than we’ve ever had,” Smith said.

David Emerson, CEO of the East Texas Food Bank, said all the produce grown in the garden goes to East Texans. Over the years they have received around 160,000 pounds of produce from the garden. With this new compost, they expect to see a 50-percent increase in growth this year.

“We’re always trying to give people healthy food, right? 50 percent of the food we give out is produce, so this is a big component here for us. And so we’re trying to address not only the food insecurity, but also the food nutrition levels people are eating in East Texas,” Emerson said.

The inmates will begin planting the next crop in the spring.