Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC) – An Integral Part of FBCG

MRC 5yr Logo_digital use_111114


Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC) is celebrating our 5th Anniversary as the only long-term support organization for refugees legally resettled to our Austin community. Each week at our North Lamar community center we facilitate a range of programs that empower refugees towards self-sufficiency by creating opportunities for educational, professional and personal growth. Find out more about all our programs at

MRC_new leaf logo_digital use_111114

The MRC New Leaf Agriculture Program seeks diverse opportunities to allow former occupational farmers to get their hands back in the dirt to feed their families and make delicious traditional meals with fresh produce! Our program began in 2010 through a partnership with Festival Beach Community Garden. Most Saturdays and throughout the week you can find our Bhutanese and Burundian gardeners providing loving attention to their plots, growing some interesting vegetables. Through the years, MRC gardeners and the Festival Beach garden community have shared knowledge, resources, meals at Solstice Potlucks, hugs and smiles and worked side-by-side at monthly garden workdays. Please stop by the southeast corner of the garden to say Hello!

Because of our success at Festival Beach, garden space is in high-demand within the refugee community. We are fortunate to have a new second garden space at Lanier High School that also provides chicken and honeybee raising. We have also partnered with Green Gate Farms through our Farm Link program to increase access to affordable produce and local growing knowledge. 11/11/14

MRC_group picture111114 MRC_img_1060_111114MRC-6488_111114MRC_img_0075_small_111114

Our History: The Festival Beach Garden Gate

There’s a lot happening in the garden from the physical structures being created to the efforts to educate others about gardening.


Below Daniel, the creator of the garden gate, shares his thoughts on the entrance and tells us more about the composition of the door from a carpentry and artist’s perspective.  Daniel said that in designing the gate, he tried to keep in mind a few factors. He wanted it to be big enough for people to pass through comfortably, but also wanted to keep the costs down and the engineering required from becoming too much.

The rest of this entry is from Daniel –    VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

The door dimensions are 49 3/4 by 99 inches. I chose one inch thickness for the boards to result in two inches overall thickness which is a little more than commercial exterior doors. The wood is Eastern Texas Aromatic Cedar. It was milled by Stephen Wusterhausen at Environmental Mill in Elgin. It is a hardwood with a reputation for stability and weather resistance, is attractive and is grown here in Texas.

I drew different shapes and asked for feedback from various members. Nick liked the semicircle a lot. So it was.

At first it wasn’t to be as tall as it is but the boards were a little longer than I was expecting. In talking with John he said tall is good. I therefore maximized the height.

As for the construction itself, the main slab consists of tongue and grooved 1 x 8 1/2 s edge glued. Then drawn and cut out. The rails and wrap on the other side are laminated with waterproof adhesive to the slab. Any joint within the rails and wrap were biscuit joined. These aspects and screwing as opposed to nails all add together for maximum durability. All bevels were hand planed.

The front (Waller side) was left rough sawn with a passing of coarse sandpaper to remove fibers. The front was to be as simple as possible with the verticality of the boards to emphasize tallness. The rear of the slab had been planed smooth for maximum effectiveness of the glue bonding between the slab and rails.

The window feature is a combination of safety and aesthetics. The safety aspects are to see what’s on the other side during operation and to reduce the wind affect which can be considerable on a big door. The aesthetic is somewhat personal as I’ve always loved the art of Maxfield-Parrish and his enchanting landscapes and characters. I’ve wished I could walk into his paintings and experience such worlds. As I walk up to the gate I see an image through the window. To me it is as a painting and upon opening the door I get to ‘enter the painting’. Alternatively the window is the exact shape and proportion of the door and is placed in a way to give the impression of a tunnel with the window being the far end. This has shades of Alice in Wonderland. Whichever suits your fancy.

How to unlock the door from either side without a key was not immediately apparent. The sliding slab of steel with a hole for the combo lock was chosen.  The large dimension of 3/8 by 2 1/2 inches was chosen for strength over the 2 1/2 gap between the door and post. This large gap serves two purposes.  One is for the lock to have room toflip over and the other is to avoid pinched hands or fingers from a windblown door. There is a threaded rod bolted through the slab with the wooden handles bored out and screwed directly on.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200The space from the ground to door bottom is 3 inches. Enough to avoid feet from being pinched by a windblown door but close enough for security. I leveled the ground to that 3 inches throughout the entire door swing for the same reason.

All of the wood has been generously coated with an Australian timber oil which is mainly linseed oil with UV screen and some amber coloring to add to the richness of the color and to inhibit graying.

Thanks to Nick and Will for helping dig holes and setting the posts and again to Nick for helping to load up and hanging the door.

The chimes are recycled xylophone bars chosen in a mode I picked out on a keyboard. They’re tied up with recycled guitar strings. I have other notes available if we’d like to change modes sometime.

How long did it take to make it? My involvement was close to 40 hrs of actually doing things plus Nick and Will’s involvement.

That’s the little story of the gate.

Garden Gate

Our History: Festival Beach Community Garden’s First Year Anniversary-Program! 2011

We are excited to welcome to our garden a number of speakers, including Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Sustainable Food Center Board President Sara Bohn, Austin Parks and Recreation Director Sarah Hensley, Austin Parks Foundation Board President Jill Nokes, and many garden experts! Please join us from 10:00 – 1:00. 35 Waller Street (at Cleremont Street), in East Austin.

Our History: Festival Beach Community Garden’s First Year Anniversary! 2011

Buckets of sweat went into preparing for Festival Beach Community Garden’s big first anniversary celebration! A par-tay was held from 10:00-1:00 at the garden featuring food, beverages and other goodies provided by neighborhood businesses and the greater Austin community. The garden is located at 35 Waller Street (at Clermont) in beautiful 78702.

We will update our website later today with photos from the event, but in the meantime, here’s a quick “then” and “now.”

1 Year Ago:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our History: Festival Beach Community Garden’s First Year Anniversary-The Faces! 2011

Our mission statement includes this very important clause:

Create a gathering space that brings together diverse neighbors to encourage cooperation, collaboration and friendship.

We take very seriously the “community” part of our community garden. Over the course of our first year, we have made so many friends, worked elbow to elbow in our gardens and communal areas, and shared so much — from information and expertise to veggies from our gardens to laughs and frustrations and even tears. We’ve built such a strong garden community…well, we well up a little just thinking about it.

Thanks to Alberto Martinez, Austin American-Statesman, for these photos, taken in April to celebrate the first calendar year of gardening at Festival Beach Community Garden. We look forward to Saturday’s public party and the friends and faces we will add to our growing community!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For Gardeners, Only: Tomatoes on the Brain

A gardener’s first-hand account of gardening at Festival Beach Community Garden. By Jolyn Janis, plot B19.

Our dive into the wonderful world of gardening began with tomatoes. Our family wanted fresh, local tomatoes in our kitchen all the time, but at $4.50 per pound and up, it wasn’t something we were ready to extend our budget on. This was before we got into the wonderful world of home gardening.

We started our first garden in 2009 when we moved from an apartment to a house and had a nice, sunny backyard. We consulted with the Natural Gardener about how to begin a garden, which seemed like a daunting task at first because no one in the family had ever had a garden — a successful one, that is. We built one with cinderblocks that was about 4’x4′ and we grew some vegetables and herbs. We had a hearty harvest, though some plants didn’t last very long and we ran into some unidentifiable plant predators. We knew we needed pro help when our collards looked like swiss cheese from an unknown insect. This gave us a taste of growing our own food and we were addicted to gardening. We found Festival Beach  shortly after and signed up for a plot, which was much bigger than what we were able to have at home. Just in time for summer, we got the call that there was a plot available and we chose our lovely plot, B19.

What I love most about community gardening at Festival Beach are the shared resources, which of course includes shovels, mulch and compost, but most importantly, knowledge, experience and advice that we’ve  receive from neighbor gardeners and resident experts. It’s truly invaluable. When we gardened at home and a bug would eat a particular plant, we would have no idea what it was or how to get rid of it organically. Now, through conversation and consultance at the community gardens, I know some amazingly simple organic solutions to control most insects and weather-related hindrances. We just started our garden at Festival Beach in March and have planted tomatoes, melons, string beans, cucumbers, basil (my personal super fave), eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers and some mystery seeds which I think is lettuce now that it’s sprouting 🙂

The photos above show our garden’s development from March to present. Inspired by the gardens around the community, we plan to build a box in the unharvested area to contain all of our herbs. We live nearby and are currently building a home farther east, though we plan to keep our plot at Festival Beach because it is such an amazingly beautiful community that grows bigger and better every day. I look forward to our first harvest, the day when we can bring a big bowl, pull lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers from our own garden, add some dressing and enjoy a truly organic salad with our new friends.

Our History: Garden Mourns Loss of Giant Cottonwood – 2011

Update: Garden is now back open.

The cottonwood tree that was the focal point, gathering place, shelter and spiritual guide of the Festival Beach Community Garden split down the middle and toppled over in May 2011 . City crews were called in, but postponed removing the felled tree and cutting down the part that remains standing because they didn’t have equipment that could handle the job. They returned the next week to finish the job.

The garden was closed until the the tree is removed. As it is now, the other half could fall at any moment, injuring anyone unlucky enough to be in its path. Nobody was hurt in the incident though it was a close call for Regina who had been working in the herb garden nearby. She heard a number of creaks and cracks, not realizing where they coming from. When she heard it one more time, she turned to see the tree slowly falling over. She ran out of its way to safety.

Many thanks to Alberto Martinez, Austin American-Statesman, for these photos. The first was shot in April during a potluck under the tree. Alberto shot the second today from the same vantage point.

Our beautiful cottonwood in April 2011
The cottonwood today

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our History: Festival Beach Community Garden’s First Year Anniversary Party-Saturday, June 4! 2011

The one year anniversary celebration of our garden will be on Saturday, June 4th, 10:00am-1:00pm.

We want to celebrate being the first community garden established on Austin Parks and Recreation Department land through partnership with the Sustainable Food Center and a grant from the Austin Parks Foundation.

The anniversary event is free and will include samples of food and drinks from our local sponsors, activities for children, garden tours, information tables about gardening and sustainable living, music, and lots of laughter.  We will thank our community “partners” with a short ceremony from 11:00-11:30.

We invite gardeners, volunteers, and all Austinites to come help us celebrate our first year of gardening and partnerships.

Note:  Volunteers are needed for one-hour shifts at information, food, and children’s activity booths or to help with set-up or clean-up, so please contact Kaela Champlin at kaela.champlin <at> or (512) 567-0740 to let her know what you can do.

Our History: New Fence for Festival Beach Community Garden 2011

Our volunteers and gardeners have been busy, busy, busy preparing the garden for spring plantings. A major accomplishment is the work on our beautiful new fence.

Our February workday brought out the muscles and the welding equipment. The team work resulted in a gorgeous new fence that will serve as a trellis for grapes and other vines! Thank you to everyone for this wonderful new addition to our garden!