Saturday, March 19, 2011

2011 Jacksonville Seed Swap and Community Garden Expo

Photos from Moooving Moments Photography ~ Cindy Coates
Photos from Sustainable Jacksonville's Meetup Album

I don't know if there has been an event like this in Jacksonville before.  But I am so glad that there was one today. I will go ahead and issue the caveat that I am a gardener at The Garden at Jackson Square. So, I was one of the 8 community gardeners that planned that event.  Although I've been up since the wee hours of the morning, I am positively energized after meeting so many wonderful people. 

Enough about me! What was it like today?  First let me throw out the list of all the wonderful exhibitors that were there.

Argyle Area Community Garden
Arlington Community Garden
BackYard Chickens with Lauren Trad and Leslie Kaplan
The Bridge Community Garden
Clara White Mission Community Garden
Mike Connolly, Handicapped Accessible Garden Beds
Duval County Extension Office
Eat Your Yard Jax
The Garden at Jackson Square
Herbal Link
Hodges Boulevard Community Garden
Jacksonville Public Library
Jenks House B&B
K & W Apiary
Mike's Mowers, Sharpening Your Garden Tools
Nemours Community Garden
North American Bee Hive Co.
Palmetto Organics
Society of St. Andrews Gleaning Network
Slow Food First Coast
Sustainable Springfield
Sulzbacher Center
Tidbits Restaurant
Tree Hill Nature Center

It's not the easiest thing in the world to find the community gardens in Jacksonville. This Expo sought to change that.  It was a great networking event. I have a LONG list of people to call and things to do and who to put in touch with who. And I think everyone I spoke to has a similar list they are carrying home tonight.

Did you know that Nemours Children's Hospital has a community garden on its grounds with about 50 plots which are used by Nemours employees.  Okay, how cool is that? I am so happy they were at the Expo; hopefully other businesses around Jacksonville with give Pam Kleinsasser at Nemours a call and implement something on their grounds.

How about Clara White Mission's Community Garden having a gardening education program?  Or did you know that Jacksonville University's Dr. Nisse Goldberg conducts research projects at Arlington Community Garden? Did you know that Jenks House B&B in Riverside serves home grown fresh squeezed orange juice to their clients. Like, how hard is that? We are in Florida, citrus grows everywhere here - maybe more people will start doing that after seeing their example. And speaking of citrus growing everywhere, did you know that the Society of St. Andrews Gleaning Network will come out and pick your over abundance of produce or fruit and distribute it to non-profit agencies helping the needy? Did you know that you don't need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs and that they lay an egg just about every day.  And they are too cute for words.  I held a 2 day old Silkie chick today named Kansas.  And the bees!  Oh, I just can't tell you everything I learned today. It's going to take days for me to process all of it.

Today, the Sulzbacher Center dedicated the 19 new raised beds that have been built within The Garden at Jackson Square.  Kevin Nacke, head chef at Sulzbacher, will be cooking with the best organic herbs and vegetables from their own garden beds. Not only will the beds feed the residents at Sulzbacher but they'll educate them as well.  They have a nutrition program and a children's program to integrate with the garden. Julia Muntean with Americorp was instrumental in getting all of the donations and organizing the volunteers to get those 19 beds built; that young woman is a dynamo.

The Garden at Jackson Square has been growing for the Sulzbacher kitchens for a while. To the extent that the gardeners there invited the kids from Sulzbacher out to pick the flowers growing in the field there for Mother's Day bouquets for their moms.  As I am bellowing out instructions to the kids, I turn to see the incongruous vision of a woman in skirt and heels standing in the middle of a field,  watching the children and smiling broadly. She was quickly mobbed by some of the kids who obviously adored her as they proudly showed her their bouquets.  Audrey Moran, at the time CEO of the Sulzbacher Center, was that woman and she spoke of that day again at today's dedication ceremony. She spoke of the simple pleasure of seeing children dashing through waist high fields of flowers playing games and running races with each other. Homeless children, mind you, with some very grown up concerns - but still children.

That day was one of the best days of my life. I can't speak of it without crying. There are pictures of the kids that day - here's the link.

Well, I hope today was a great success for everyone. The swappers were swapping like crazy; I hope they are happy with the results. The gardeners were networking like crazy. The bees were buzzing like crazy and the kids were playing like crazy. Tidbits brought great food - the chicken salad went FAST (I hear it's awesome - pout).

I believe there will be another Seed Swap and Community Garden Expo next year, hosted by Tree Hill Nature Center and the Arlington Community Garden. I secretly recorded them swearing that they would be next year's hosts so they can't back out. Just kidding! They can't wait and neither can I.

Ta for now. I am going to scoop up my tired little girl and my tired little self and kiss my tired fellows good night and toddle off to bed. Oh, and to my daddy - thank you for all your help. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you.