20 years of good thymes at Coppell Community Gardens (with video)


Bren Flechtner

Since 1998, Coppell Community Gardens’ inclusive environment is one that its volunteers have taken advantage of, inviting organizations such as Coppell’s Nation Charity League chapter. The plants are harvested are donated to Metrocrest Services food pantry. Photo by Bren Flechtner.

Charlotte Vanyo, Staff Writer

In 1998, Coppell city manager Jim Witt and council member Marsha Tunnell discussed a novel idea – one that would still be a center of growth, gratefulness and community in the city two decades later.


With the help of Amanda Vanhoozier, a city employee who worked at a preschool garden at the time, they began the tedious process of starting a garden.


“I can’t believe how the gardens have grown.” Vanhoozier said. “I’m so proud of the volunteers and the effort that they put into it. There are people who spend over 40 hours a week at the gardens.”


The gardens are a haven for volunteers who enjoy using their gardening skills and spending time in the outdoors. The plants harvested are donated to Metrocrest Services Food Pantry in Farmers Branch.


Volunteers learn about growing foods organically, cultivating plots and valuable collaboration skills.


“It has been such a rewarding experience because it’s donating to people in need, but it’s also very rewarding to grow things and meet people who you would never cross paths with,” founding member Joyce Whitbread said.


One does not have to be a skilled gardener to volunteer at the gardens, however. Through the City’s “Coppell Connection” volunteering program, anyone can buy a plot and learn.


“When I first started eight years ago, I didn’t know anything about gardening really,” plot owner Holly Hiller said. “I’d only had a garden in my own yard for a year and I didn’t know what I was doing. I really appreciated learning from my [plot] neighbors.”


Apart from learning from other gardeners, the city offers classes to pick up more about topics such as organic gardening, pests and weed control and how to use water resourcefully and more.


Coppell Community Gardens’ inclusive environment is one that its volunteers have taken advantage of, inviting organizations such as Coppell’s National Charity League chapter, a mother-daughter organization that began serving the gardens three years ago when it first formed.


“My favorite part about volunteering at the gardens is learning new things about nature and knowing what I’m doing is going to help feed someone in need,” Class of 2020 NCL Coppell chapter member Victoria Weigand said. “The people at the gardens are really nice and excited to teach you about new things. Sometimes, they even let you try the produce.”


There is no doubt the Community Gardens forges relationships, turning even strangers into close friends.


“Over the years we’ve planted things that we would’ve never known growing up in Texas, because they [the plants] come from Vietnam, or they come from all sorts of different countries,” Whitbread said. “We teach each other things.”


The environment of friendship at the garden makes it a much more enjoyable place to volunteer and what may have been a lonely task a fun, collaborative one.


“One of my favorite memories is when we worked together to harvest sweet potatoes and came up with about three or four wheelbarrows,” Whitbread said, with a smile illuminating her face. “We felt so good with all those sweet potatoes we had to give away.”


Working hard to meet a common goal is something that unites those working together a majority of the way and creates an unbreakable bond.


To me, the most special thing is the relationships I’ve formed with other gardeners,” Hiller said. “I mean it’s fun to grow things, but there are really nice people here.


Even those who are no longer with the gardens, such as Vanhoozier, remain connected with the volunteers.


“There are lifelong relationships formed at the garden,” Vanhoozier said. “It’s a place to socialize. The common ground is gardening, so you can be from different socioeconomic levels or different cultures, but everything kind of ground levels when you’re at the gardens. I don’t know anywhere else that you have that type of experience.”


Now having mentored more than 200 community gardens in North Texas, the Coppell Community Gardens are touching more people’s lives than ever before. The gardens began with a small 60-by-120 foot area but its growth seems to now surround the city at almost every corner.


If you are interested in adopting a plot at the Coppell Community Gardens, you can learn more about it on their website.