Natalia FFA helps rebuild community gardens in Rockport

Natalia FFA members in attendance (back row): Mr. Clarke, Jessica Picarazzi, Odyssey Director, Juan Vera, Carolyn Shannon-Graham, Shauna Masters, Wyatt Woodson, Wes Robbins, Odyssey Supervisor, Elijah Quintero. Front row: Julie Rivera, Manny Padilla, Austin Guzman, Jared Stallworth, Chance Lamb, and David Aguirre.

A group of Natalia FFA members volunteered their weekend to travel to Rockport, TX and rebuild the award-winning community gardens at The Odyssey After School Enrichment Program. The gardens were completely destroyed when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport this past August. FFA members that volunteered their efforts and talents included: David Aguirre, Austin Guzman, Chance Lamb, Shaunna Masters, Manny Padilla, Elijah Quintero, Julie Rivera, Carolyn Shannon-Graham, Jared Stallworth, Juan Vera and Wyatt Woodson. Students were accompanied by the FFA advisors, Patrick Clarke and Meghan Woodall as well as Natalia ISD teacher/ coach Philip Martinez.
Odyssey After School is home to over 100 Aransas County students every day after school. Two out of three Odyssey students are considered “at-risk,” and all of them were affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Odyssey gardens were a highlight of the Odyssey program, and placed first in a statewide community garden contest at the end of last year.
The Natalia FFA group and Odyssey were awarded a $20,000 grant from the International Youth Foundation to fund the project. The grant provided new fencing and all materials to completely rebuild 20 large garden beds. Volunteers from the Aransas County Master Gardeners, students from Aransas County ISD, and Odyssey families joined the project and donated their time to help complete the entire project in less than 36 hours!
Natalia FFA members were thrilled to be a part of such a rewarding community service project that ties directly back to agriculture. Shaunna Masters reflected of the trip, “the FFA Motto states: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve” and we had the opportunity to fulfill that motto easily in such a short time. Knowing that we were building a space where students will learn how to grow their own food as our farmers do, and how to take care of the land in such a way made it even better for us as agriculturalists. We hope to go back and visit the garden when plants are being grown so we can see the garden back to its full potential.”