May 24, 2019
by Liana Solis

Meet NTFB’s Resident Farm Gal – Vanessa!

May 24, 2019
by Liana Solis

The North Texas Food Bank focuses on providing nutritious meals to our hungry neighbors. Our Garden Coordinator, Vanessa Bailey, works in our community garden every day helping to produce healthy foods and teaching healthy living. Learn more about how she helps NTFB in this Q&A!:

Q: What brought you to the North Texas Food Bank?

A: I like to joke that my journey to the NTFB began organically. My background as a Mental Health Social Worker for the state of Texas opened my eyes to the incredible need for identifying and breaking down barriers to access to care. For me, the two biggest issues I felt were contributing to poor patient outcomes was a lack of access to fresh, responsibly grown produce and limited ability to feel plugged into the community.  I started the first community garden in Flower Mound, Texas, called Common Ground Community Garden to address those needs right in the same small town I grew up in.

Before I knew it, we were growing so much food that we joined the Partner Garden program at the NTFB. This incredible program supports community and school gardens by providing resources to gardens that agree to donate 10% of their harvest to a local food pantry in their neighborhood.

After five years of growing for the Food Bank, I answered the call to help grow the garden program for the NTFB and I cannot wait to share the wonderful work that will be accomplished here to support our community. Our garden seeks to equip and educate others to grow food in abundance for their tables and the tables of those in need.  We host weekly volunteer opportunities every Wednesday; come grow with us!

Q: Describe your role.

A: I wear a few hats around here. As a former Social Worker turned Environmental Educator, Master Composter and Permaculturalist, my role is to create curriculum and programs which will help empower others to reliably and sustainably grow food in abundance in their own backyards or community gardens.  

That said, growing food is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce). The NTFB is deeply committed to stewarding our resources and supporting local agriculture. To accomplish this, I created the Green Waste Recovery Program for the NTFB. This monthly pick up opportunity provides local area farmers and gardeners with bulk green waste for use as a livestock fodder or compost. By recovering our green waste, we hope to set a new standard for waste recovery. In the garden world, trash is treasure!

Q: How can gardening impact food insecurity?

A: As a Social Worker, I saw firsthand how multifaceted the lifecycle issues of food insecurity are. The hard reality for many of our clients is that they are sacrificing something daily to make it work. For some of our clients, they will sacrifice medication to make sure their children eat. No one should have to make the choice to pay for milk or medicine. That’s not okay and it’s time we look to our own backyards for answers to fill the food gap.

Did you know that just one 2ft planter can provide a family of four with lettuce throughout the entire growing season? Gardening is something that everyone can do in any space they have. Live in an apartment and only have a patio? There’s a patio tomato that will work for that! Have an abundance in your backyard and are tired of paying to water it? Come volunteer at Jan’s Garden and I will teach you permaculture methods to sustainably grow food instead of grass. When we cultivate our community, we grow BIG things — like ending hunger for all North Texans. 

Q: Any quick tips to share?

A: You bet! If you are just starting out in your veggie garden, consider planting the smallest cultivar of the vegetable you wish to grow. This looks like growing a cherry tomato instead of a giant slicer or growing fairy eggplant instead of the larger Italian varieties. Dwarf plants will come into maturity faster which means less time on the vine exposed to our crazy weather and critters. You’ll enjoy a more productive harvest and earn the confidence to take on the larger cultivars later on.

A:  As we approach our long hot summer, our garden friends will be looking at your fields for hydration. If you are seeing a lot of peck marks in your tomatoes, put out a birdbath near your veggie patch. The birds will drink from the bird bath and leave your tomatoes alone. 

A: Save your eggs shells to use in the garden. Eggs shells are full of calcium and can be used as a natural slow release calcium top dressing by simply spreading crushed eggshells over your garden beds. As the shells break down they release calcium into the soil and also act as a slug deterrent.

For volunteer opportunities in Jan’s Garden with Vanessa, visit our website.


Caroline Madel, Writer

Caroline Mandel joined the North Texas Food Bank in fall 2018, and is passionate about sharing client stories – the face of hunger is changing and she is committed to raising awareness surrounding hidden hunger and hardship. Outside the office, she enjoys spending time with her two young sons and husband.

Back to all posts.

The North Texas Food Bank focuses on providing nutritious meals to our hungry neighbors. Our Garden Coordinator, Vanessa Bailey, works in our community garden every day helping to produce healthy foods and teaching healthy living. Learn more about how she helps NTFB in this Q&A!:

Q: What brought you to the North Texas Food Bank?

A: I like to joke that my journey to the NTFB began organically. My background as a Mental Health Social Worker for the state of Texas opened my eyes to the incredible need for identifying and breaking down barriers to access to care. For me, the two biggest issues I felt were contributing to poor patient outcomes was a lack of access to fresh, responsibly grown produce and limited ability to feel plugged into the community.  I started the first community garden in Flower Mound, Texas, called Common Ground Community Garden to address those needs right in the same small town I grew up in.

Before I knew it, we were growing so much food that we joined the Partner Garden program at the NTFB. This incredible program supports community and school gardens by providing resources to gardens that agree to donate 10% of their harvest to a local food pantry in their neighborhood.

After five years of growing for the Food Bank, I answered the call to help grow the garden program for the NTFB and I cannot wait to share the wonderful work that will be accomplished here to support our community. Our garden seeks to equip and educate others to grow food in abundance for their tables and the tables of those in need.  We host weekly volunteer opportunities every Wednesday; come grow with us!

Q: Describe your role.

A: I wear a few hats around here. As a former Social Worker turned Environmental Educator, Master Composter and Permaculturalist, my role is to create curriculum and programs which will help empower others to reliably and sustainably grow food in abundance in their own backyards or community gardens.  

That said, growing food is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce). The NTFB is deeply committed to stewarding our resources and supporting local agriculture. To accomplish this, I created the Green Waste Recovery Program for the NTFB. This monthly pick up opportunity provides local area farmers and gardeners with bulk green waste for use as a livestock fodder or compost. By recovering our green waste, we hope to set a new standard for waste recovery. In the garden world, trash is treasure!

Q: How can gardening impact food insecurity?

A: As a Social Worker, I saw firsthand how multifaceted the lifecycle issues of food insecurity are. The hard reality for many of our clients is that they are sacrificing something daily to make it work. For some of our clients, they will sacrifice medication to make sure their children eat. No one should have to make the choice to pay for milk or medicine. That’s not okay and it’s time we look to our own backyards for answers to fill the food gap.

Did you know that just one 2ft planter can provide a family of four with lettuce throughout the entire growing season? Gardening is something that everyone can do in any space they have. Live in an apartment and only have a patio? There’s a patio tomato that will work for that! Have an abundance in your backyard and are tired of paying to water it? Come volunteer at Jan’s Garden and I will teach you permaculture methods to sustainably grow food instead of grass. When we cultivate our community, we grow BIG things — like ending hunger for all North Texans. 

Q: Any quick tips to share?

A: You bet! If you are just starting out in your veggie garden, consider planting the smallest cultivar of the vegetable you wish to grow. This looks like growing a cherry tomato instead of a giant slicer or growing fairy eggplant instead of the larger Italian varieties. Dwarf plants will come into maturity faster which means less time on the vine exposed to our crazy weather and critters. You’ll enjoy a more productive harvest and earn the confidence to take on the larger cultivars later on.

A:  As we approach our long hot summer, our garden friends will be looking at your fields for hydration. If you are seeing a lot of peck marks in your tomatoes, put out a birdbath near your veggie patch. The birds will drink from the bird bath and leave your tomatoes alone. 

A: Save your eggs shells to use in the garden. Eggs shells are full of calcium and can be used as a natural slow release calcium top dressing by simply spreading crushed eggshells over your garden beds. As the shells break down they release calcium into the soil and also act as a slug deterrent.

For volunteer opportunities in Jan’s Garden with Vanessa, visit our website.


Caroline Madel, Writer

Caroline Mandel joined the North Texas Food Bank in fall 2018, and is passionate about sharing client stories – the face of hunger is changing and she is committed to raising awareness surrounding hidden hunger and hardship. Outside the office, she enjoys spending time with her two young sons and husband.

Back to all posts.

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