What a Difference Food Makes Community Gardening

By Ian Hunter and Craig Chapman

The benefits of community gardens are endless: reduction of greenhouse gases, local economic benefits, increased property values, opportunity to teach people new job skills, bringing fresh food to areas otherwise considered food deserts, and especially how delicious fresh fruits and vegetables taste and how rewarding it is to eat something you helped grow.

Harvesting the fruits of gardening can also be done at home. Starting your own vegetable or herb garden at home can add fresh touches to your meals. Additionally, the concept of “eating locally” may shift from local community gardens to a new line of “garden-to-glass cocktails” that several local Brevard restaurants are creating.

Here are a few people, organizations and businesses in our area who are coming full circle in keeping cool – from community garden to backyard garden to night on the town.

Located along the train tracks somewhere between Prospect Avenue and Line Street off US1 near downtown Melbourne, two women came across a small unused piece of land and had a vision, a vision to start a garden community. In March 2012, these two women, Lori Thoms and Katherine Martin, made that vision a reality and this garden has now become a beacon of food hope for the neighborhood in which it resides.

“This area is considered a food desert, which means there is no place in this area for people to buy fresh produce. That’s why we chose this particular area to start a garden,” Lori said. “A lot of people limit themselves to buying tin cans. So our big goal when we started was not just to have a garden to teach people how to grow, we wanted a kitchen to teach people how to prepare fresh food as well.

It made such a difference that it created a wave of involvement from volunteers, local schools, church groups and the garden’s neighbour, CITA.

“The number one part of the mission is education and just trying to help others see how to grow things organically in Florida,” Katherine said. “Growing things in Florida is very different. We have been partners of CITA for some time. They appreciate the products that come from the garden and we are now at the point where they want to send people here to help us in the gardens so that we can teach them not only gardening but also transferable job skills.

Buddy Morrow, CITA Mission Director, adds, “Farming is big business in our state and we bring our men here to use it as a job training.

Volunteers leave with a positive impact on their lives in a variety of ways. “You’re doing something good for the community and also bringing home a ton of fresh produce,” Lori said. “There’s a mix of ages that come… It’s a pretty good mix. It’s great to see younger kids working with older people. It’s something all generations can benefit from and I don’t think it happens enough in our society.

But how much can a small community garden produce, you ask me? More than you think.

“We had a record year for harvests! Every year we work really hard to amend the soil, adding more organic matter to it,” Lori said.

“It’s very difficult to grow in Florida, especially organically. The heat the humidity which increases fungi and pests… We mainly grow vegetables and herbs: basil, rosemary, coriander, mint, dill.

With all the amazing things Seeds for Change has done for the community, Lori and Katherine consider the volume of their harvests their greatest achievement. A week can produce up to 75 pounds of product!

A small community garden that has proven a little hard work, sweat and ingenuity can create lifelong change for everyone involved and nurture them – mind, body and soul.

Seeds of change
2404 S. Harbor City Boulevard, Melbourne
(321) 693-0757