Mark A. Mahoney
This past week I had the opportunity to publish a column on the benefits of vegetable consumption. One way to help facilitate additional vegetables into our diets is to participate in community gardens (as well as individual gardens for those with the land/resources to do so).
As we move away from the pandemic (and into springtime), and transition into more “normality” in our daily lives in the Big Bend area, the importance of getting out and getting involved in community gardens for our physical and mental health cannot be discounted .
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I published a column in 2019 in the Tallahassee Democrat, “Community gardens have a place in improving health.”
My past experience with gardens includes working with elementary school children in vegetable gardening while serving as the Wellness Chairperson for the Florida State University School’s (Florida High) Parent Teacher Student Association.
Subsequently I was involved with the establishment of the Southwood Community Garden and continue as a participant over the more than 10 years since its inception.
Sustainability and connection
Community gardens make important contributions to all facets of sustainability. By providing access to healthy produce, organic gardens save participants money, increase access to healthy food, and cut down the amount of fossil fuel used to get food to the dinner table.
They also provide us with the ability to foster community, something we desperately need in our increased societal polarization.
The intent of today’s column is to provide an overview of some of the resources available to help foster the establishment and sustainability of community gardens. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive listing of all the players.
Leon County Community Gardens Program
Leon County’s Community Garden Program offers technical, material and grant support to citizens looking to start or revitalize a community garden anywhere in the County.
Grant funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis as long as they are available. Gardens are separated into three categories: County, School Stakeholder, and Non-School Stakeholder. A more detailed description of the program including application forms is available at: cms.leoncountyfl.gov.
According to the Leon County Office of Sustainability Leon County has supported 62 community gardens since 2012 through our Community Garden Grant program which awards grants of up to $1,000 to start or support community gardens in Leon County.
They would love to support more community gardens, so if you have an idea for a garden and would like help exploring it, please do not hesitate to contact them.
City of Tallahassee Community Gardens
Some information from the City of Tallahassee website on community gardens is provided below:
The City of Tallahassee is happy to assist citizens in the development of community gardens. They encourage citizens to work with their neighbors to build, cultivate, and maintain gardens on public lands. The benefits are numerous. Not only can a household introduce fresh produce into their diet, but community gardening is an excellent way to build community too!
Go to the following site for details on the community gardening program
Whether you are a home or community gardener, there are a variety of resources available to assist you or your community in answering questions and/or providing resources.
Information and resources
Two organizations, The Damayan Garden Project and Lott’s Community Garden are two examples (of many) involved in assisting the community to foster the establishment and continuity of community gardens as well as contributing produce to help feed those in need.
These two organizations utilize volunteers and are examples of non-governmental assistance: damayangarden.org and lottscommunitygardens.com.
The Leon County Master Gardeners Program at the Leon County UF/IFAS is a trusted resource for non-biased, evidence-based horticultural information. Access more details on this valuable resource at sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu.
Two local garden centers which provide a variety of resources for vegetable gardening are noted below with a specific link noted.
Native Nurseries: nativenurseries.com/herb-and-vegetables
Tallahassee Nurseries: tallahasseenurseries.com/vegetables-herbs/
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 30 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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