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South Florida community garden builds community

  • Subject: [cg] South Florida community garden builds community
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2006 18:26:58 -0800 (PST)

Ft. Myers, Florida, USA
Jan 22, 2006

Community garden sprouts
Page Park tries to bring neighbors together

By Joel Moroney

The seeds are for vegetables but the dedication of the
Page Park Community Garden on Saturday was aimed at
growing community pride.

Sixteen plots are worked by neighbors around the
community center on Center Road, transforming a vacant
lot in this largely industrial neighborhood adjacent
to Page Field into a vegetable garden ripe with
tomatoes, squash, onions, corn, beans and other

"This is just a milestone in making Page Park a better
place to live," said Seymour Roche, president of the
Page Park Improvement Association.

"This is just one of the things in the last 10 years
to improve living here and it's something we want to
continue to do."

Jenn Duffala, of the Lee County Department of Human
Services said a goal of the garden is to become a
social hub.

"The whole goal of the program is to create community
ties  Get the neighbors to come out and meet each
other, take community pride and reduce crime," she

Page Park resident coordinator Ron Benak said the
garden has 16 plots each a 16-foot square. Eleven of
them are occupied and there are tentative commitments
to plant the rest.

"I'm a farmer at heart," he said. "There's nothing
better than pulling fresh vegetables out of the garden
and it's a chance for people to meet.

"They are reaping something and it's good for the
community," Benak said.

Gina Sabiston, activities director at the Alternative
Learning Center High School, said about $20,000 in
state grants, matching funds and donations were
brought to bear on the project.

A dozen students earned science credit by working
through the fall to transform the empty lot into a
large fenced garden, complete with proper irrigation
and rich soil.

"The students were actually in charge of designing the
park, creating the brochure for people in the
neighborhood and building the park," she said. "We
hope to do more. The idea was to keep them out of
trouble on the weekend."

Pride and community were taking root after a ribbon
cutting as neighbors trimmed plants, pulled weeds and
socialized while small planes took off and landed at
Page Field.

"We got it done and I'm very proud of this," Benak
said. "I think it's going to be very successful. At
some point, you might drive by here and see a farm
market out front."

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription:  https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

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