By Traci Chapman
Just three years after Mustang’s local community garden became Wildhorse Gardens and Market, volunteer efforts and a partnership with city and other organizations have
resulted in a different kind of harvest, with the nonprofit named a 2018 Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Environmental Excellence award finalist.
“We are very proud that the work of all the volunteers that help in the garden, including the scouting organizations and the afterschool program, is being recognized for the benefit the garden brings to our community and to the environment,” Wildhorse president Susan Dobbins said. “We appreciate the support of our volunteers and the community more than we can say.”
Mustang’s community garden and associated market is a finalist in KOB’s category for organizations serving communities with populations between 15,000 and 40,000 residents; this year’s environmental excellence awards are scheduled for presentation Nov. 30, during Keep Oklahoma Beautiful’s 28th annual celebration.
“This event celebrates the work of governments, businesses, organizations and individuals doing their part to keep Oklahoma beautiful,” KOB executive director Jeanette Nance said in a statement.
An affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful effort, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful was created in 1965 to form a network aimed at beautifying and improving communities throughout the state in a variety of ways and incorporating programs like Great American Cleanup, lend-a-bin, litter and waste reduction education and fresh paint days, officials said. Canadian County’s Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority executive director David Griesel is one of 17 KOB board members.
Keep Oklahoma Beautiful’s announcement comes as Mustang garden/farmers market volunteers and supporters celebrate what they describe as their most successful season so far. Now in its 10th year, the nonprofit this year drew record crowds during its recent inaugural National Farmers Market Week observance and continue expansion of facilities, programs and more, they said.
“We’ve seen efforts like our raised gardens, our butterfly garden and we’re working toward so much more,” Dobbins recently said. “It’s exciting to think how far we’ve come in such a short time.”
That’s because it was just in 2015 the garden and market – thanks to Mustang city officials – made the move from a plot of land lent to the group by a local developer to a Wild Horse Park site dedicated to it, not only for now but for future generations, volunteers said.
“The city has been incredibly generous in all its done for the garden – not just the land but the work they’ve done, the storage shed, farmers market pavilions, even including a project that will greatly help us in the most recent sales tax issue,” longtime volunteer Bob Wilson said.
That project, Mustang Market, is a building envisioned to be an all-purpose facility giving the garden and markets – as well as other city departments and organizations – a larger, interior space which will help operations further grow, and enhancing the community in the process. Voters in 2016 approved city officials’ proposal on a slate of projects, which included Mustang Market.
For now, volunteers have their hands full with the ever-evolving garden and market. In addition to changes like a butterfly garden contributed, in part, by members of Girl Scout Troop 358, new fruit trees and more, gardeners continue their tradition of donating about one-third of all food harvested from the site to Kiwanis Food Pantry.
The community has responded to volunteers’ hard work, as an organization that for a long time struggled for volunteers marks a surge in help and a July Wildhorse profile – which also featured the gardens of Calumet couple Daniel and Ruthie Pugh – on OETA’s Oklahoma Gardening show.
“It’s exciting because it shines a light on what we’re doing, and the more volunteers we have the more we can do and grow,” Dobbins said. “We’re always, always needing volunteers though.”
More information about Wildhorse Gardens and Market can be found on its website, located at http://wildhorsegardensandmarket.org/ and its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WildhorseGardensAndMarket. Garden photos can also be found on Instagram by searching for “Wildhorse Gardens;” the Canadian County
Oklahoma Gardening episode can be viewed in its entirety online at http://www.oklahomagardening.okstate.edu/full-shows/2018/072818-fs/; and additional details about Keep Oklahoma Beautiful can be found at https://www.keepoklahomabeautiful.com/.