Alternative Community Farmer/WPB.FL

  (WPB, Florida)
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State of the Community Garden II: What are the PROs and the Challenges?

 

From an experienced horticulturist  point of fiew(20 years of community urban farming in S.Florida), I asum up the Pros and challenges as follows.

A:The Pros-

1)Urban Farming as a THERAPY:I have been interviewed by the Sun-sentinel back in 2008 and the topic was :Gardening as a THERAPY!People who grow their own food have access to  fresh food which supports nutritional health, decreases susceptibility to illnesses and overall reduces the burden on the health care system ,inhancing IMMUNE SYSTEM and offcourse shrinking  the doctors and grocery bill by reducing STRESS.

 2)Spreading GREEN AWARENESS and SUSTAINABILITY!I have fascilitated classes on Organic Urban Farming at colleges(Palm BeachState College-Green Expo 2011,Cities,Churches,Wellness centers,Firefighters group,Scouts,Homeowners etc..).I am indebted to Natural Awakening Magazine and localharvest.org for their support .You may find out about ongoing classes by visiting:localharvest.org/farms/M20618.Or by checking out the Natural Awakening Magazine-Palm Beach edition"Mark your calender".The community garden has inspired me to reach out for those who want to grow their own food and did not have access for land , just like myself.Swinton Community Garden is the latest community garden I am involved with and it has been a great experience for the last four years and going.Thank you SCG!

I fascilitated Composting classes at the city of Lake Worth from 2010-2011.The composting program was was created to reduce waste especially coming from the kitchen and the GARDEN INTO THE lAND FILL  AND RECYCLE IT INSTEAD INTO COMPOST AT THE BACKYARD GARDEN .

3)Community Urban Farming can create GREEN JOBS:I personally MADE A LIVING FROM 2001 TO 2008 from ONE OF MY LARGER  COMMUNITY GARDENS   and created a network of CSA back then , before it was turned into a LAND FILL in 2009!

Community gardens can be a significant source of food and income for members. This is especially helpful for families and individuals without JOBS or  land .

 

 4)Community Gardens are a venue for cultural DIVERSITY and PRODUCTIVE community social interaction between local  officials and the public.

Community garden projects give community members the opportunity to work side-by-side, regardless of cultural background ,ethnicity,nationality,religion etc...

Studies show that legal immigrants  produced traditional crops that are otherwise unavailable locally.Community gardens does not have a generation gap ,mixing youth and adults together. 

Community gardens bring officials and local residents closer.In a recent volunteer work ,two weeks ago ,at the Hollywood community garden project, I met a local commissioner Mr.Pete Hernandez.Upon explaining to him that the soil is lacking nutrients and full of pebbles and debris , he invited me to accompany him to chose a fertile soil which he donated into the garden as a good will gesture to help improve the status of the community garden under construction. Studies have shown that areas with above average green vegetation have less graffiti and littering, and lower crime rates .People caring for their neighborhoods learn how to care about each others from growing their own food to beautifying their community with flowers and greenery.I personally experienced that while volunteering at the Chief Sitting Bull garden in Lake Worth and Carver Community Garden IN Delray.Both gardens do not exist anymore unfortunately!

5)Community gardens can turn neighborhoods infested with crime, into safe communities.They can be a good food source for soup kitchens.I personally donated crops from my community garden to the Caring Kitchen from 2001 till 2008.Giving back to our community through volunteering at community garden and donating crops to soup kitchens help enrich our community spirit and nourish so many who are in dire need for food.

B)The Challenges-

1-Out of 10 community gardens I tended for the last ten years two are still existing while one  was  available for sale and the other one  has already downsized!Many reasons among the short term life of community gardens among which:Sale for developers,repocession by owner,failure of members to maintain the garden,lack of funding ,convert site into landfill,abandonment,etc.. 

2-Community gardens being used as platforms for political agendas.Some join to boost their community Organization resume references,others to assume and boost a socialist profile,and many just to experiment their green nostalgia then quit after finding out that it takes sweat and gets their hands dirty...

 

 

 
 

TopSIXCommunity Garden Challenges and Solutions.A personal experience in S.Florida community gardens

The community garden experience here in South Florida started in the late 1990 as far as I am concerned.

I witnessed the creation of a community garden at a crime infested site here in South Florida.I was lucky to have a major Newspaper "Sun sentinel" run a coverage story .They sent a columnist and a photographer and posted the article at the Front of the local section with a full scope of two pages.I was also lucky to have one of my workshops  documented  by the Lake Worth Forum at another community garden in Lake Worth .Both gardens disappeared from reality later on , but I benefited from the experience .Later on I was also involved in more than other six community gardens , one of which is still current...But...I have witnessed why so many community gardens fail because of so many reasons mainly :

1-Lack of local government support in providing budgets to create community garden or donate land.The current garden I am involved in is a backyard of a home owner!

2-Lack of educational programs at the community gardens .Being a certified master gardener since 2001 , I have noticed that no serious programs are offered at the site of community gardens by edcational institutes like colleges or schools of agriculture.Merely efforts are made by individuals to educate the public at the site of community gardens.Other programs are offered at the local  Extension Programs of some Horticulure active regional colleges.

3-Lack of budgets and financing at the federal level to support community gardens where local governments fail to do so.There are many stories about the closure of down town Miami Community garden besides others in S.Florida due to inavailability of financing support etc..Solution :Pump in federal stimulus and financial support to CG. 

4-Politics plays a significant role sometimes in the creation of some community gardens where a certain group uses its GREEN efforts as a propaganda to influence votes and credibility among locals..but then the garden ceases to exist like what happened to a local garden I was involved with long time ago.Solution:Keep politics to the politicians and gardening for gardeners!

5-Churches that provide land for community garden sometimes have better luck to keep the garden existing . I have a bitter taste from a couple of churches that did not do enough to keep their GREEN Promises and faltered to keep their gardens existing .Most churches I worked with did not have a budget or a program.Just wanted to explore !Mainly depending on  flow of funds ,volunteers ,supporting efforts for experienced and educated coordinators who have the ability and time besides experience to do the DIRTY HANDS ON GARDENING(Meaning to let their hands into the SOIL!!)etcSolution:Create more community gardens at the empty lots of churches that grow just GRASS!

6-Soup kitchens benefit most from community gardens besides the volunteer gardeners who tend to harvest crops of organic locally grown vegetables to save on the grocery bill and stay healthy  through gardening exercises.I donated organic crops for a local soup kitchen until I lost my half acre lot to the land fill.Solution:Create more backyard gardens at the Soup Kirchen Locations whenever abvailable and encourage unemployed volunteers to work the land and grow their own food!

 

 
 

How to grow an Organic Community Garden?Where to start: At a home owner/church backyard?.Here is an example at SCG and some challenges and solutions!

Here in S.Florida Sandy soil is king.Challenges are plenty to mention the least:Finding a home for a community garden.That's where you need to start .

From my horticultural  education and hands on farming experience, more than twenty years ,of growing organic vegetable and fascilitating classes /workshops at  seven community gardens : I came up with  a personal TRUE story to share  .

Those of you who are contemplating to start their own community gardens .especially in a back yard\,I  have a visual to support the narration of my true story.Check it out down below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I01Qd9b7YT4

 

My last half an acre  started with a 10x2 plot  at a community garden .The land was initially a neglected area that was infested by crime and drug dealers.It was  provided by a local city 'X".

DADS(Dads  Against Drugs were the ones who came up with the idea ) .The idea became a garden with more than 20 active members at its peak.It sprouted and survived and became a food source for working class families and a neighboring soup kitchen that catered to the unemployed and those who silently struggled   ..

The garden was pronounced dead when the city decided to convert it to a land fill back in 2009.I lost all my nine years of hard work converting the sand into a FERTILE  top soil through composting and hauling truck loads of organic soil . Not to mention the tools,neem trees , equipment garden supplies etc..that were removed/hauled away without me being notified to salvage any!

I grew NEEM and Papaya trees,Organic vegetables. I created a JOB for myself as an URBAN FARMER growing Organic Local food that found so much demand back in 2001 and onwards...in the absence of Organic Farms or CSA back then in the area. 

I displayed my greens at local Green Market single handedly with the help of a volunteer from Head Start who beleived back then, just like me ,that Growing our own food could support the local ecconomy by creating jobs versus finding a job.

To  convert neglected lands or  inefficient lawn grass back/front yards into a productive vegetable garden is by itself a JOB that PRODUCES FOOD.

Community Gardens:It is something that stimulates local economies besides combating crime by diverting the attention into a positive productive paths !I never gave up my passion for organic gardening despite the sbsence of support or any stimulus money to help Urban Farmers.

Now I am gardening at a community garden at a private home owner backyard.It is available for sale.Here we go again .Looking for another home for my garden. I contacted a group of small churches and here I am  gardening at the backyards of a church group that feeds the disadvantaged and has a  Hunger Project.End of story.

Suggestions and Solutions:

1_Start Small.Make sure that you will not ne evicted suddenly or without a notice.Sign a time for use agreement(Ten years minimum)

2_Stay focussed on a PURPOSE related to growing the food for (Spell out the purpose and protocol in PRINT....)

3_Stear clear away from politics and those who want to use the garden as a protege or a stepping stone to their personal aspirations or hidden agendas.

4_Expect challenges and create out Solutions.Involve more of those who are active in their working hands and  muscles on GROWING ,and less of those who enjoy being spectators,commentators etc..Gardening is a HANDS ON experience for those who dare to touch the soil ( Never call it dirt).

5_Get an educated/experienced Organic  Urban Farmer on board to give guidance on Organic Urban Farming  through Awareness classes.

7_Gardening is a PROCESS.So give yourself time to learn,understand and implement.

8_Start  COMPOST piles/bins and learn/implement : recycle-reuse -restore.Know what are the ingredients of the soil you are buying?

9_Exchange /harvest/grow local and NATIVE  seeds.If you can not afford  organic seeds.Look for Heirloums .Say no to synthetic chemicals &GMO!

10_Share your harvest with a local soup kitchen.Display your harvest at a Green Market/Church market etc...Let Diversity be  your choice for community membership or planting practices.Giving back to the community through community gardens is the PRACTICALand PRODUCTIVE  way to SAY: THANK YOU

 
 

A Community Garden gets an Involuntary pesticide spray and is asked to remove sprayed fruits and vegetables by you know who!.Will the Food Safety bill affect/take away your backyard vegetable garden and your green /farmer market stand?

A local community garden that does not allow its members to use synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers , gets an INVOLANTARY pesticide spray and is asked to remove  fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Thus,raising questions about the "who" has the right to grow and harvest and spray on a private property and stirring disgruntled emotions among some of the community garden  members, who grow their own organic food to survive after they  lost jobs  and you name it.. Now some of them  are losing their own grown FOOD , after they have been denied FOOD STAMPS previously  and now offered FREE PESTICIDES on their organically grown food! Imagine this happens to you.What would you do?

This is being done while the Safety S 510 is still  -not approved as LAW yet- but waiting on the floors of the House and the Senate .Imagine what will happen when it is APPROVED becomes LAW?Where have you been all this time ?Just chit chatting about the weather and which chicken is laying eggs and which one is not?Have you had a chance to check it out?Do you know who are sponsoring and who are opposing it?

Is the S 510 Food Safety Bill going to make you -your food/ farm/garden/farmersmarket- more safe at growing or marketing your own produce ?Here is a chance for you to get all the answers and post all the questions that are in your mind.Check out the below web link.Be proactive and do not procrastinate about your rights. You know what to do!

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-510

Small farmers :Wake up NOW and speak up for your rights .Make your voice COUNT this coming NOVEMBER!

 
 

A day at the Lake Worth Resource Center-Helping hands,Mentoring minds and Compassionate hearts

Last time I reported from the LWRC was when the landscape grounds as well as the skills of the garden work force were being enriched by Brickmans , one of the top landscaping corporations  nationwide .It was October 16,2009.

Today is January 13,2010 . I bring along my enthusiasm and passion to the center to report another day .The temperature of the ARCTIC CHILL is receding back to the normal tropical zone.I rode my bicycle to catch up the line of job aplicants who start flooding the center around 7 AM  for local work .Most of the workers who use the center are specialized in landscaping .I count more than 50 unemployed  linning up for the monthy bus pass .A service the center provides to help out the unemployed secure a price reduced MONTHLY bus pass at $ 5, from the TRI-COUNTY PALM TRAM.

On the other part of the hall at LWRC there are around 30 students who are enrolled in a program to learn the ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

The center also provides breakfast and lunch meals for free to the incumbants who find at the center a great venue for using their IT center for job search  and other educational means.

The calender for January is rich with activities  and programs such as:

Tutorials.English for the workplace course.AA presentation.Art workshop.Cake decorating class.ID cards assistance program.Cake decorating class.

As an Urban Organic Farmer who uses the center , I find it helpful to extend a helping hand in reporting about its great contribution to the community.I also have offered my vision and volunteer services to start an educational ORGANIC GARDENING WORKSHOP at any time in the future when it is convenient to the center.Here in Lake Worth  there are great opportunities for employing the experienced migrant farmers if we create a right setting that combines bringing in the potential home owners who need to start an ORGANIC VEGGIE GARDEN in their backyards ,along with the Landscaping employers who like to expand their scope of work into ORGANIC GARDENING.

I have discussed my  vision and ideas with Mr.Don Wilson, the CEO of the Mentoring Center earlier and I am still confident that one day such a workshop will find its way into being at the center.

In tiimes so dire economically , we need to explore and create more opportunities for our community just by offering to volunteer our services even if we can not find financial remunerations at first.Creating work at the community level means utilizing  resources both human and financial to make a positive impact on our community.There are people who talk about it in meetings, or whatever ,to bolster their PR image and there are people who JUST DO IT to do the right thing and make a difference in peoples lives.The people at LWRC do make a difference and they need our help one day at a time.Thank you DON WILSON and team of volunteers at the LWRC.

Tony Dagher BA,CFMG @

localharvest.org/farms/M20618

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The State of Community Gardens : Failures and LACK of support!

Most people think that community gardens are supported by government  and local city halls.Not so as I know of.Carver Park Community garden in Delray Beach ceased to exist last summer.Now it is the site of land fills !Chief Sitting Bull Organic Community Garden in Lake Worth was erased back in 2007 !Miami community Garden also disappeared as well ! Others more evaporated in such hard ecconomic times where soup kitchens and churches are crying for food produce donations to feed the growing numbers of the  unemployed  ,the homeless and  some senior citizens !

Across US Small urban farmers who choose to use Community Gardens are encountering obstacles and MUCHO bumps and discouragements from both public and private entities .For example, I qoute an article by Elizabet Licata* in the last issue of HORTICULTURE magazine Dec/Jan 2010 issue page 104, "..more than 400 community gardens in Manhattan,New York , have been the subject of public battles since 1999.Sacramento,California, lost its Community Garden to condo developers in 2009.The recent Academy Award -nominated documentary THE GARDEN tells the Saga of the famous community garden in SOUTRH -CENTRAL Los Angelos that was plowed under in 2006." Unqoute.

I was lucky to have my work  at one of the swallowed and destroyed community garden documented by a local Newspaper back in 2008.I lost everything without being even notified to remove tools or salvage some of the rare medicinal trees like the AYUERVEDIC NEEM TREE ,Papaya trees etc.. I was donating Organic Veggies to a local soap kitchen since 2001.Not any more.

In times  so dire where we URBAN FARMERS struggle with Climate Change,Economic DEEP_RECESSION and double digit unemployment (in Florida!) add to this lack of support or Stimulus help to support local SUSTAINABLE ORGANIC HORTICULTURE -We pray for a change of heart and mind by those who are in AUTHORITY and  CARE FOR local food production and sustainable green living to do THE RIGHT THING!

Note: Check out more articles  by Elizabeth Licata at her blog:gardenrant.com

 
 

Understanding the CONCEPT of COMMUNITY ORGANIC GARDENING in the TROPICS!ACTUALLY NOT VIRTUALLY!

Welcome to the TROPICS.Now start TO LEARN SPANISH-CREOLE-CARIBEAN and HOW TO ADAPT to the TROPICAL HEAT!Are you kidding me?Most people who want to start a garden think about HIRING a MIGRANT FARMER to do the DONKEY DIRT work while they only want to eat the fruits and veggies, no sweat included!

We need to UNDERSTAND and be AWARE of the following BASIC CONCEPTS before we break grounds:

1-Organic Gardening in the TROPICS is not same as Organic Gardening UP-NORTH.The following variables and differentials must be accounted for before we embark on the endeavor:

a-We must accept the fact that there is going to be heat and sweat and dirt on our hands and clothes.Being a partner WITH OTHERS AND THE earth IS GREAT, BEING a spectator or supervisor is not enough!

b-We need to shift awareness gears from  COLD North to Hot South .Meaning , we must get out of the AIR-Condition comfort Zone first and get our body used to theOUTDOORS TROPICAL CLIMATE.

c-CONSIDER:Breathing exercises , ergonomics lessons on how to use the body in performing garden work without injuries.Also  procure ergonomical garden tools too!Reading a gardening book or taking a virtual class via THE INTERNET OR THE PHONE are not enough.One must have HANDS ON LEARNING  EXPERIENCE !Look for local small farmers who offer HANDS ON GARDENING  workshops not just THEORIES VIA CYBERSPACE or TELECONFERENCE!You must be in the GARDEN to learn about GARDENING!

d-In order to learn the way of COMMUNITY ORGANIC GARDENING  you must toss away your EGO.Instead you need to start thinking in the WE-GO way! We come in UNITY in the community concept.If you do take issues with people of color or tan or of those who speak another language which you do not understand,get over it!Learning means you need to have an open mind and a desire to learn even if it takes to listen .Diversity is the common grounds in the community garden!

e-All MEN AND WOMEN are created equal.So ,FORGET ABOUT BEING THE BOSS OR THE FIRST IN COMMAND !LEARN INSTAED TO EMPLOY your hands without working your mouth with profanity or your mind with prejuidice in case you are a chovanist or consider yourself of a better race.Accepting others is very important in the community garden for a simple reason: You are a member of the community garden with other human beings who share with you equally the rights and duties . 

F-HERE IN SOUTH FLORIDA WE HAVE sand NOT soil .sO, START THINKING ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST AND LEARNING THE KNOW HOW OF MAKING YOUR OWN SOIL!THERE ARE OPTIONS OF BUYING OR USING OTHERS PREPARED SOIL .BE EDUCATED ABOUT THE SOIL YOU WANT BECAUSE WHAT 'S IN IT  MIGHT HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON  YOUR HEALTH !(EX:HEAVY METALS-CHEMICALS-PHARMACEUTICALS -UNSAFE OR UNCERTIFIED  HUMAN SLUDGE  ETC)!

2-Once a plan is drafted to start a community garden, the following must be established :

a-A DOING IT TEAM versus a TALK ABOUT IT TEAM!

b-A BUDGET-A NAME-A CO-ORDINATOR-A PLOT FOR EACH MEMBER.

c-A RULES AND REGULATIONS PROTOCOL with  pertinent CONTRACTS and AGREEMENTS .

3-Classes and workshops to educate the members are essential.An experienced LOCAL ORGANIC FARMER with certification from a local Horticultural institute is commendable to fascilitate the LEARNING PROCESS.

4-COMMUNITY GARDENING is a NEW  working arena and a learning process.It is afterall a collective endeavor that needs to focus on the group and not on the INDIVIDUAL only!Here in the South , we had slaves assigned to the plantations work in earlier  15th-19th centuries ,and now we hire migrant farmers while we ourselves disdain doing this kind of MENIAL work and have NO RESPECT in general for people who do it! This ATTITUDE needs to change if we want to have a successful PRODUCTIVE COMMUNITY GARDEN!

5-There ARE LOTS OF vacant plots THAT CAN BE TRANSFORMED INTO COMMUNITY GARDENS HERE IN SOUTH FLORIDA.THERE ARE LOTS OF ATTEMPTS THAT ENDED UP IN FAILURE BECAUSE THERE WAS A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING AND AWARENES OF COMMUNITY CONCEPT AND OTHER  CULTURAL-FINANCIAL ISSUES ETC!!

 
 

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS TO COMMUNITY GARDENS-Part I

In my work experience as an URBAN ORGANIC FARMER here in S.Florida, I have co-founded and closely helped out in establishing four community gardens.Two of those gardens cease to exist .

I like to share my observations and feedbacks to help out  in the future revitalization and remediation work process to  organic community gardens .

The Challenges.

A-POLITICS IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN:

Personally , I advocate non-political approach to growing ORGANIC FRUITS and VEGETABLES in community gardens.Unfortunately , the situation at the ground is otherwise.I noticed that some of those gardens I tended attracted members who were POLITICALLY MOTIVATED in the first place.Their work mainly at the garden was only to extend /show their political aura or to enrich their resumes and social status as community organizers or activists .

This trend also entrenched some active or retired officials in addition to local figures of some organizations to partake just to appeal to the media and local public opinion.Others were involved through educational institutions /non-profit organizations etc , to apply for grants,bolster their community stance , keep the influence of donated GMO seeds and seedlings- FREE soils derived from treated  sludge - fertilzers and pesticides ammendments-active at the garden .Little  actual gardening work  was  done   by some of those occasional members- visitors-spectators, who mostly show up at events.

The solution:

The spirit of VOLUNTARY COMMUNITY SERVICE through productive planting and harvesting of ORGANIC PRODUCE should be the main MOTIVE.Donating to local soup kitchens and needy families must be emphassized especially NOW.Encouraging the membership of struggling families and the financially disadvataged should be a priority in enlisting members.Diversity in membership should be equally stressed along with diversity in gardening.Social dialogue through pot locks and workshop events must be introduced to enrich the communication between diverse groups of the neighboring community.Solutions to the challenges remain impotent without actual involvement with the HANDS ON learning process:ORGANIC SOIL - CLASSES and WORKSHOPS-POTLUCKS-HARVESTING and SHARING of HARVEST-SEEDS EXCHANGE.Active members must adhere to the rules and regulations set for the garden.

B-Allocating and preserving more lands for growing organic produce locally.

Some of those community gardens took decades to build their organic soil and with a change of heart are destroyed to be new locations for developments or other use.

The solution:

Advocating for the placement of new laws to protect and  preserve FERTILE agricultural lands / urban community gardens that have irreplacable organic top soil.

C-Lack of Local Programs to EDUCATE and Graduate: Organic Community Gardeners /ORGANIC URBAN FARMERS at the local school level and beyond.

Attention should be redirected from the current home-owners mentality of growing ornamentals and shrubs using fertilizers and pesticides  for the purposes of landscaping only.So many home owners are having their homes forclosed and now are renting or are displaced.

The solution:

Vouchers for continuing education and local community plotsshould be issued. Jobs for organic urban farmers should be created and promoted through educational and vocational local programs.Growing food must be the new mood instead of growing JUST GRASS! 

D-Lack of support ,recognition and appreciation to organic farmers.

Migrant farmers with their illegal status has driven the farming jobs down to its bottom.No respect and discremination are rampant.wages  and benefits are so low.Organic Community  Agriculture Educational programs are non-existing below the university level.Big Agri-Business domination of the market .

The solution:

The community garden can be the new venue for raising the awareness level by providing organic horticultural educational programs and  marketing opportunities to small farmers or community urban gardeners.A FREE green market at a Community Garden to sell and display produce can be used as an example in supporting the local economy through marketing of locally grown produce .This kind of market exists in Europe, but at a different location:The village markets or -Thursday markets.The now available farmers /green markets levy high fees and charges here ,in general  . who affords to sell at those markets are merchants of grocerystores who rent spaces to sell conventional imported produce from other countries or different states.The farmer has been replaced by the merchant at the farmers market at least here in S.Florida ,with some exceptions , offcourse!

 
 

TOP TEN TIPS FOR BOUNTIFUL GROWING AT THE S.FLORIDA COMMUNITY GARDEN

S.Florida Community gardens are growing more , in numbers.Most of the new comers to S.Florida need some Tropical Gardening orientation as they mostly come from the cold Up-North!

Here are some suggestions for the new comers to make their toil in the soil less painful and more fruitful!

1-Put on garden safety gear when you garden.That includes sun glasses,gloves,hat,long sleeve shirt,bugs repellent..DRINK PLENTY OF SPRING WATER and always HYDRATE!

2-Double dig the soil and extract any debris or toxic substances.Know WHERE YOUR SOIL COME FROM!Avoid adding soils that have fertilizers or other contaminents like PCB,Plastics etc..

3-Trans-plant seedlings from local farmers rather than directly planting  GMO or commercial seeds that take longer to grow and harvest.Seedlings bought from SOME garden centers might have fertilizers and pesticide or herbicide contents.Choose varieties that give bountiful harvest like  cherry tomatoes !

4-Avoid using pesticides or herbicides by choosing  the prevention method rather.Plant companion pest reppeling HERBS like :Cuban oregano or Basil .

5-Choose DIVERSITY in planting varieties of plants that Co-exist and Complement!For example I grow sunflowers and corn and cucumbers or pinto beans TOGETHER , so the former can be used as natural trellis by the latter!Also I plant short term harvesting plants like arugola and lettuce with long term harvest plants like tomatoes together.Plants love to co-exist and are more productive and efficient when used as such in LIMITED SPACE GARDENING!

6-Choose SEASONAL draught tolerant NATIVE plants to S.Florida .Prefer Nutritional content over taste and flavor.Use Xeroscaping ,or the right plant in the right place:do not plant water loving plants alongside with desert loving plants!

7-Get help in ORGANIC TROPICAL GARDENING from a local urban farmer or someone who have experience in TROPICAL FARMING.It is different to garden in Florida ,but it is not difficult to adjust.There is no green or brown thumbs.There is awareness versus ignorance!

8-Use Garden ERGONOMICS Body Functional Movements .There are certain exercises for first time gardeners to strengthen certain muscles and gaurd against injuries by using properTRAINED  muscle FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENTS  !

9-Use ERGONOMIC TOOLS .Use Organic Soil.Use Organic Seeds.

10-Keep learning.Attend worrkshops and ORGANIC gardening classes.

References to check out  Organic Gardening Books and web sites:

www.Rodale Ulitmate Organic Gardening Encycloped

How to grow organic vegetables in containers

Container and small space gardening

Four season gardening

New square foot gardening

Happy community  gardening  

Alternative Community Farmer WPB/Fl

http:www.localharvest.org/farms/M20618

 

 
 

Building and enhancing the community resources brick by brick the Brickman'sand Lake Worth Resource Center WAY!A lesson on how a local Landscaping business and a local Volunteer oriented Mentoring Center join hands to help out the community by DOING !

Lake Woth ,Florida.

Reported by :Blogger Tony Dagher  BA,CFMG

The sun was shining in another  beautiful fall Florida day.

There was Ms.Taylor ,a  photographer from the Palm Beach Post and another camera man from a local TV -channel 5-snapping shots and interviews  respectively !.I was there  reporting and interviewing for my Local Harvest blog alongside  with the media.Why not having farmers reportes ..to touch base with reality from an urban farmers perspective.I felt proud  taking part  in  another  COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER event.

There,I was  witnessing something different which  rarely catches the eye of the common observer:A landscaping  crew of  managers -regional-operational-adminstrative and more office STAFF -in addition to arborists,technicians,trainers-sweating in the sizzling Florida sun with hands and shirts covered with dirt and mulch.

They were  mostly white colar staff DOING some LABOR INTENSIVE PHYSICAL WORK  by volunteering at the Lake Worth Resource Center .Tell me about farming and gardening being a trade for the under paid and overworked , a job looked at as demeaning by some!May be it is the right time now to introduce URBAN FARMING in our school programs for the general public as something to be PROUD OF:GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD LOCALLY!

They were  beautifying the city of Lake Worth by planting their donated trees,ornamental shrubs and flowers,and spreading environmentally friendly Melaluca mulch at the LWRC.ALL DONE FOR FREE!THAT IS UNCONDITIONAL COMMUNITY LOVE IN ACTION!

They were  giving demonstrations on using equipment and TRAINING the Lake Worth Resource Center job seekers for careers in landscaping.

The Trainees were mostly Hispanic non-documented migrant workers.But there were others who are documented citizens who came to learn as well.They were being taught HOW TO: Operate landscaping equipmen,applying safety gear, spray, mulch etc.

Just finished ,was  an indoor multi media Brickmans University  power point presentation fascilitated by  M/S Katerina Albertson the director of employee development ,assisted by Boca Raton operational manager Mr.Martin Tapia . Among other important things,we learned about the UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF MOWING:

1-BRING IN BIG MACHINES FIRST.

2-USE NON-EXCESSIVE WEEDING

3-KEEP THE GRASS IN THE GRASS ,NOT ON THE SIDE WALK.

Brickman group was celebrating the Founder's Day by volunteering and giving back to the community.

As in today,back in 1939 ,Mr Theodore Brickman founded the company with head quarters in GAETHERSBURG-MARYLAND.Today the Family owned and operated company ,a home for more than 10,000 employees nation wide ,is headed by grandson and CEO SCOTT BRICKMAN.

This community celebration by reaching out and giving back should be a LESSON to all.Present was   a crowd of more than 100 volunteers , jobseekers ,company satff and officials  spearheaded by Brickman regional manager Mr.Mark Swanson,Lake Worth  Commissioner Susan Mulvehill , LWRC president and directors Lisa and Don Wilson,and Brickmans WPB branch manager Mr.Brendan Dooley .Let us give a hand and volunteer .Let us celebrate by beautifying and enriching our community.Let us news report the POSITIVE and spread more awareness aboutPRODUCTIVE  HORTICULTURE .

For more info about the LWRC visit :

http://www.thementoringctr.org

Fotr more information about Brickman ,visit:

http://www.brickmangroup

For more info about our blog visit:

http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M20618

 
 

How to start an ORGANIC COMMUNITY GARDEN IN THE HOT ZONE -TROPICS...What to expect..and what is expectd from you?

Organic Community Gardens are now sprouting like crazy in South Florida.The economic crunch is now compelling churches,schools,municipalities ,homeowners etc..to transform lands -that are either neglected or used to grow lawns -to productive vegetable gardens.

As a Master Gardener who worked for the last 10 years in establishing and maintaining Organic Community Gardens in South Florida I came up with a summery of RECOMMENDATIONS to help out new comers chart a feasable way into starting their own ORGANIC COMMUNITY GARDENS:

 

1-LOCATION:START SMALL,choose a location that is immune to FLOODING,is not a slope and is topograghically sound.Check out and clear the soil of  debris and other toxic substances.

2-Solarise and aerate the area you plan to use for a vegetable garden.

3-Appoint a care taker who has knowledge and experience to manage an organic  garden. Form a committee from your group and name a CO_ORDINATOR to follow up,to handle and decide on the garden  issues and solutions:financial,social,organizational,community events,gardening process and other matters pertainig to the garden.

4-Declare a mission and a vision.Prepare a garden budget.Set up rules and regultaions.Fill applications and paperwork to observe ,preserve and protect all parties from litigations on subjects pertaining to safety,accidents,insurance liability,obligations and responsibilities,time limits for using the plots etc..

5-Fascilitate educational classes and workshops to promote organic gardening awareness ,garden ergonomics,safety,gardening know how etc..

6-Publish a news letter,design a web site for the garden .

7-Involve members who are dedicated and able to carry out the garden tasks.Specialize gardening areas for different groups: SENIORS,ADULTS,CHILDREN,DISABLED etc..

8-Have specialized areas for: composting,a mini nursery,workshops and classes,shed for storing tools and garden accessories,events,bulletin board etc..

9-Prepare your own organic top soil,compost,organic fertilizers,organic pesticides.Weed and maintain the garden.Irrigate and mulch as necessary,harvest and use companion herbs .

10-Market your produce in green and farmers market especially to people who can not afford the EXPENSIVE HEALTH FOOD STORES.Donate to soup kitchens and charity organizations that cater for the needy.Do potucks and spread the good word of LOCALLY GROWN ORGANIC FRUIT AND VEGETABLES!

 

 
 

There are "JOB OPPORTUNITIES " at the community garden near you.But first let us save those community gardens from being destroyed!

I want to share with you a REAL story about one of the COMMUNITY GARDENS in South Florida that are becoming history!

This community garden I am talking about was more than 15 years old.It started at a neglected African American neighborfood back in the 90's.Dads Against Drugs were the ones who intiated the idea ,the volunteers and the city provided the land for the community garden.There was a soup kitchen involved and a local college kids program as well in addition to many local volunteers.The media was summoned upon opening and lots of propaganda followed.Two years ago a local newspaper did  a report on urban farming and a columnist did the coverage.That was then!Until the times when the folks volunteers community gardeners started to get behind in paying their mortgage ,insurance and so forth bills.One by one they left the garden to work a second job or find a way to pay the bills!Come 2003 ,I was the only one left .The Parks city co-ordinator was fired  due to  budget cuts .There were lots of crimes and murder not to mention the drug dealing before the garden.situation now is back .Recently "someone" came and demolished the almost one acre garden without notice at least to salvage the trees ,containers,tools etc..Rare neem trees,grape vines and garden accessories ...all were gone.Now piles of land fill occupy the garden and soon they will be building on the lot.No notice.No nothing.Tell me about respect for the land and volunteers who work community gardens!

Urban farming is a necessity to neglected neighborhood where drug dealers and crime brew and foster.Add to this a crowd of human beings who travel from all over  to seek rehabilitation from DRUGS at this sobriety world known retreat capital.Guns and ordinances can not solve the problems of neighborhoods infested by crime, poverty and drug dealers and users!Community outreach programs like PRODUCTIVE COMMUNITY GARDENS can be one of the solutions!

Check out this: In Japan and Finland...gardening is being introduced as a THERAPY at hospitalls,rehabilitation and wellness centers..How about learning from those programs and implementing them in our own backyard.Lots of people now have no jobs,no homes and are flooding the food stamp system .I suggest giving those who are able bodied a "PRODUCE YOUR OWN FOOD" voucher instead ,payable at a COMMUNITY ORGANIC GARDEN near you!

Yes, we can save millions if not billions by calling all vollunteers to work the community gardens.

There are by this moment around ONE MILLION FLORIDIANS who have no jobs.Most of them will be applying for FOOD STAMPS ,if they did not already.We have hundreds and thousands of neglected lots that are either owned by city or county.Why not start a program like the VICTORY GARDEN for example and earmark some bail out funding or budget? People can be productive producing their own food especially here in the South where we are in the 8-9-10 agricultural zone .. Produce can be grown almost the whole year round!

Now please be advised that we have THREE COMMISSIONERS ALREADY IN JAIL here and an INSPECTOR GENERAL: position now is being contemplated to investigate FRAUD etc...so we need some one from above to come first and have a look from below to find out what is going on.

Food is a necessity.People who are unemployed can produce their own ib community gardens if HELP is available.

Ask me about help and I tell you:No body listens!They were dumping the mulch from the Hurricane destroyed trees at the cemetry while there was  a need to use it at the community garden but no one would care, no matter whom and how many times you asked for help.Money talks loud around here.

Save those kids from the drug dealers by teaching them how to grow their own food.Save those neglected neighborhoods by growing fruit and vegetable community gardens in their neighborhoods.Let us produce Organic food locally by those who are able and  unemployed.We can do it .

 
 
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