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Brownsville’s La Mancha Urban Farm got a welcome upgrade Tuesday morning when workers from Love Tito’s Block to Block program helped install a gravel pathway, clear garden beds, lay mulch, and set up a garden shade structure, greenhouse cover and prep station tables.
La Mancha Urban Farm, situated at the end of La Mancha Street off Paredes Line Road, is operated by the Brownsville Wellness Coalition along with La Posada Urban Farm and several community gardens around the city to bring locally grown healthy food to Brownsville residents.
Brownsville Wellness Coalition also conducts cooking classes for residents, teaches them how to farm, and operates the Brownsville Farmer’s Market in Linear Park along Sixth Street on Saturday mornings.
Love Tito’s Block to Block program is the “philanthropic heartbeat” of Austin-based Tito’s Homemade Vodka, Lisa Nuccio, the company’s field sales manager said Tuesday morning as workers got busy improving the 1/4-acre farm.
“We realized a lot of our distillery workers and their families had limited access to healthy food, so we decided to farm,” Nuccio said of the block-to-block program’s origins. “Having access to healthy food had such a huge impact we decided in 2019 to get out into the market and take what happened in our backyard out into the community.”
The program helped three community gardens in 2019, and 20 the following year despite the pandemic, she said. This year it is slated to assist some 30 community garden projects across the country.
La Mancha Urban Farm received a $30,000 grant, Dave Vasquez, a 10-year BWC employee who goes by the moniker Farmer Dave, said.
“I was part of that project to create these urban farms,” he said. “What you see here is the end product of 10 years working the soil, getting the funding. This project with Tito’s will help us have more washing stations for all our vegetables that we grow, wash them up nice and pretty. Instead of working on the ground like you saw, we’ll have work stations.”
“Through the Love, Tito’s Block to Block program, Brownsville Wellness Coalition will make essential enhancements to its La Mancha Urban Farm to increase the capacity for food production and improve functionality of its Farmer’s Market space and community space,” Tito’s says on its website.
Projects benefiting nonprofits in Denver, Des Moines, Iowa, Newark. N.J., Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Sepula, Okla. are listed alongside Brownsville’s.
“As the company grew, Tito empowered each and every member of the team, regardless of their role, to support the causes they were passionate about in their local communities. As Tito’s Handmade Vodka continued to gain momentum across the country, involvement in philanthropy grew in tandem,” the website says.
Nuccio said Carlos Lomeli, a Tito’s employee born and raised in Brownsville, suggested the Brownsville Wellness Coalition as a potential philanthropic recipient, resulting in the grant to the La Mancha farm.