Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Gainesville community behind Porter's Garden

I saw a notice on Facebook that Porter's Community Garden in Gainesville was looking for volunteers to plant donated fruit trees on Wednesday Dec. 5th. I was going to be in town for a couple of other meetings on that day, so I stopped by. What a great community project!

Intensively grown cabbage plants have
been mulched with straw.

The community behind the garden

The person who lives next to this plot donated use of the land and a greenhouse, which is still needs to be put together. The plot already had a water source, so it was a matter of clearing the weeds and bringing in some compost. A community fundraising effort raised $12,000 for expenses.

Ten 55-foot long rows are dedicated to raising food for St. Francis a nearby soup kitchen and homeless shelter. The goal is to raise one ton of vegetables annually for St. Francis and other local charities. In addition, six 4x8-foot raised beds have been constructed for families in this disadvantaged neighborhood. More will be constructed as needed to support the community.

The local Chestnut Hill Tree Farm donated $500 worth of fruit and berry trees, which was the reason for this planting session.
Two volunteers adding compost to a newly-planted peach tree. No compost touches the trunk.
Straw mulch is added on top of the generous layer of compost.
The large election sign in the background will soon be a sign for the garden.
Several good-sized citrus trees were already growing along the edges of this lot.

 FOG's Travis Mitchell standing in front of the compost bins.

Florida Organic Growers (FOG)  

FOG, a non-profit corporation established in 1987, promotes organic and sustainable agriculture by educating "consumers, farmers, future farmers (children & youth), businesses, policy makers and the general public." Porter's is one of their projects.

Travis Mitchell, a UF alum in organic agriculture and FOG's community project coordinator, was being interviewed and taped for a radio show when I drove up. So I talked to the other volunteers and interns who were working.

After the interview, he explained some of the details of this project to me before getting back to work. If you look at the second peach tree photo, that large election sign will be painted over and posted here, so people will know what's going on.

Gainesville Compost

Also onsite were a couple of guys from Gainesville Compost, a pedal-powered community compost organization, which makes sustainable soil from food scraps collected from local restaurants and distributed to local gardens. They now have a Compost CSA! How cool is that? A CSA (community supported agriculture) is where clients pay up front for a season's share of a farmer's harvest. Here, clients pay for a season's supply of compost.

Chris Cano (on the right in the photo below), the CEO (Compost Experience Officer) of Gainesville Compost, remembered me from my presentation for Gators for a Sustainable Campus three years ago. (See my post on that encounter: Green Gators: There's More to University of Florida Gators than Just Football... )

Chris posted a good summary and history of the Porter's project on his website: Porters Community Farm: Help Fund an Inspiring Urban Farm in Downtown Gainesville. He also promised that he'd write a post as a guest blogger here about bokashi composting, which uses a fermentation process of some kind. I look forward to that.

Gainesville Compost is a company that ditributes food scraps from restaurants to gardens via their pedal-powered trailers. Chris Cano CEO is on the right.  On the left: Steven Kanner, a senior environmental science undergraduate at UF and Chief Engineer & Inventor at Gainesville Compost. Chris met Steven when he was developing his custom bike trailer business called Kanner Karts.
I enjoyed this uplifting side trip to such a green and sustainable community project. I loved running into Chris and that he remembered me from that stormy night at UF when I was sure no one would come. But 40 or 50 students cared enough to show up. As I said at the time, "meeting these enthusiastic students and learning about their initiatives, gives me hope for the future." So now it is the future, and look what I uncovered. How Cool!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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