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Community Gardens: Florida and Vermont

  • Subject: [cg] Community Gardens: Florida and Vermont
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2005 10:18:10 -0500

Wanted: Neighbors to embrace new garden 

Staff Writer 

Last update: March 26, 2005 

Go a few dozen yards west of U.S. 1's grime and roaring traffic and find an oasis that's worlds apart. 
Rows of seedling squash, beans, banana peppers, scallions, marigolds and herbs are silently taking root here inside a rectangle of dirt bordered by a wire mesh fence. But this is no ordinary vegetable patch. 
A state grant paid for the materials through the Front Porch Florida. The Bethune Center provided the land and the first group of weeders and waterers. The Volusia County Health Department nutritionists oversaw the effort's coordination. The city of Daytona Beach tilled the soil. Members of the Central City Kiwanis built the fence. And the University of Florida Extension Service sent a master gardener to lend his expertise. 
"We want kids to see where food comes from and increase the number of fruits and vegetables in everyone's diet," said Barbara Harrison, director of the Volusia County Health Department's nutrition services. "We want to get the community involved in the project." 
Whether this garden will grow into a community effort its organizers envision, however, is as hard to predict as hurricane season. 
Without the sustained interest and effort of the neighbors surrounding this central city oasis, this community garden could wither and die. 
Betsy Johnson, executive director of the American Community Garden Association, based in New York City, said that her organization has watched many community gardens sprout -- and then lie fallow. The usual pattern is one group gets it started, but then they move away. 
"You really have to create a small, new little organization and like any organization, it won't keep going unless there are people who are interested in doing more than just gardening," said Johnson, whose organization supports about 1,000 groups that oversee about 8,000 to 12,000 gardens. "They need to be committed to working to form a group." 
A group of five to seven teenagers are the advance party in the effort to bring the community into the 22-foot by 22-foot plot behind the Bethune Center. They call themselves the Young Golden Achievers. 
"I've asked the Young Achievers to get fliers together," said Francis Mobley, chairperson of Central City Front Porch Florida. "We want to pull the community in." 
Before handing the project over to the achievers to weed and water, the organizers gathered last week to plant the roots of the project. Master Gardener Jim McKenzie of Port Orange was advising them on how far apart the seedlings ought to be planted and how deep to go. 
"You ready to get your hands dirty?" he asked. 
The 400 garden plots flourishing with the oversight of the Friends of Burlington Gardens in Burlington, Vt., make it hard to believe that in the mid-1980s it looked as though an effort that started in 1972 could be going dormant. 
A nonprofit that previously oversaw the gardens, called Hope Gardens for All, disbanded and many of the original gardens went untilled. 
"It was down to 200 plots when I started in the late '80s," said Jim Flint, now the executive director for Friends of Burlington Gardens. 
City government adopted the project and became a sponsor. And a new, nonprofit was founded. "We really latched onto the idea that gardens are for all people, that everyone should have the ability to grow their own food," said Flint, whose two children, Alison, 16, and Jon, 14, have taken prizes at the area's regional fair in the "longest green bean" category. 
In the last 12 years, the Friends of Burlington Gardens have raised $50,000 in grants to pay for tilling, topsoil and other materials in addition to running educational programs. 
On April 15, the project's first book, "Patchwork, Stories of Gardening and Community" is coming out. 
-- Anne Geggis 
An organizational meeting for the community garden at the Bethune Center, 740 S. Ridgewood Ave., Daytona Beach, will be at 5 p.m. April 19. If you want to join the garden effort right away, contact Barbara Harrison, director of nutrition at the Volusia County Health Department, (386) 274-0670. 

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

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