The New Green: Sustainable renovations and urban agriculture news

The New Green: Sustainable renovations and urban agriculture news

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

One sign of the neighborhoods’ “New Green” awareness is the proliferation of community gardens.
Some have sprouted nearly unnoticed in small neighborhood plots and serve a few friends. Others are more official and the benefits have grown beyond just those who till the soil. And many are designed with community support in mind.
“There are a lot of examples in the area of community gardens that are grown under the umbrella of organizations that use them to give back in some way,” said Carol Kartsonis, founder of Friends of North East Florida Community Gardens, a gardeners’ network. “It would be great to duplicate them all over the city.”
Kartsonis formally served as the administrator of Gardens at Jackson Square, located along Phillips Highway in San Marco. The five-acre garden, begun in 2009 by developer Steve Cissel, houses within it the 19-plot Sulzbacher Community Garden for the Sulzbacher Center homeless shelter.
“The garden was designed to teach residents from the shelter about nutrition and to provide a good source of fresh produce for the Sulzbacher kitchen,” said Megan Riggs, the garden’s coordinator. Five to ten residents normally join her weekly to tend and harvest the garden. “It’s also a great reliever of stress and helps the residents clear their minds.”
Across the river at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Allan Darby has joined with the hospital’s outreach ministries food pantry to provide fresh produce from the “Life Garden” he began in a 100-yard-by-10-yard plot near the emergency room.
“The vegetables are a nice compliment to the dried and canned foods,” said Darby, the hospital’s Food & Nutrition Operations Manager. The garden supplied 150 pounds of produce to the pantry last year.
“The garden also provides a little community pride,” said Darby. “Once somebody starts the spark, other people come out of the woodwork to help. So, our garden not only feeds people, but also brings people together. ”
Building community was what Pam Kleinsasser at Nemour’s Children’s Clinic had in mind when she sent out an email proposing a garden to that hospital’s associates in 2009. Over 50 people responded and together they built a 1,300 square foot garden along the river on hospital grounds.
“It has brought people together over good food who wouldn’t had otherwise met,” said Kleinsasser, a medical photographer and avid gardener.
For Amy Thomas, the hospital’s speech, language and hearing-impaired specialist, it has done much more than that.
Thomas has developed an entire curriculum around the garden for her 10 young clients who may have anything from speech impediments or memory impairment to food aversions.
“I looked at what they needed – speech or language goals, sequencing, vocabulary – and then worked backwards to the garden,” said Thomas, whose students range in ages from 4 to 14. “But the whole child is growing from this; not just my little goals. It’s good for their social and emotional development. They light up when we go out to the garden. That’s when I see them at their best.”

Your comments and suggestions for future columns are encouraged. Contact Steve DiMattia at
[email protected]

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