Sunday, January 20, 2013

DIG Local: State of the Organization

Looking to learn more about DIG Local out at the Beach
Read their most recent newsletter for lots of great updates: 

First off, I have to apologize for the length of this email. Since our last newsletter, Dig Local has been active in the Atlantic Beach area supporting the DIG Community Garden on Dutton Island Road. We have been blessed with excellent plot owners and a full garden for this current fall/winter season.

We have also been working to build the education opportunities for kids in the garden and the surrounding community centers. In working with children, we have a dedicated volunteer for the kids' bed at the DIG property and also the Donner Community Center. We were also able to put on a small seeding workshop through partnership with Beaches Habitat and their after-school program at the Jordan Community Center. We have recently made moves to bring on an Education Director who will be beneficial in our development of curriculum and lesson plans for future endeavors.
Our other outlet in the AB area is the Mid-Week Market that takes place every Wednesday at Bull Park. With the market, we are working to increase the average weekly attendance and also bring in new vendors.

Last October saw a successful Farm-to-Table Fundraiser take place at Ocean 60 Restaurant Wine & Martini Bar in the Beaches Town Center. We were blessed to see the support we have among the people, government, and businesses of Atlantic Beach and the surrounding areas has not wavered. And while maintaining current projects is a good goal it's merely a benchmark along the way.

At the beginning of November, Dig Local was invited to attend the 2012 Northeast Florida Community Gardens Conference put on by Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens. It was a great time of making new friends and establishing much needed connections between community gardens and not-for-profit organizations with like-minded missions. And we learned a lot about the area we call home.

Approximately 73,000 residents in neighborhoods across Jacksonville live in an area that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) labels a food desert. Basically, it is any census district where at least 20 percent of the inhabitants are below the poverty line, and 33 percent live more than one mile from the nearest supermarket.
We at Dig Local have known there was a problem of food access in our own Atlantic Beach...but we didn't expect such a large and far-reaching issue so close to home. We're not the only ones to recognize the connection between a lack of food access, low-income households, obesity, chronic diseases, and more. And thank goodness, we are not the only ones wanting to change it.

But still, we here at Dig Local find ourselves a little overwhelmed. There is a need and accompanying interest to bring gardening and agriculture programs into schools. For example, the success of Steve Mendenhall at Biltmore Elementary is a thing of beauty. There's also movement within the Duval County Health Department to address similar food access and nutrition issues and to partner with outside organizations to change the food landscape in our area. This list goes on.

Dig Local wants to be involved and we're working to build those opportunities. We're convinced that community gardens, farmers' markets, agricultural and nutritional education, urban agriculture, and more aren't just fun extracurricular programs but vital to the continued growth and overall well-being of all our neighbors across Duval County.

Gardens: We are working on a partnership with Second Harvest, the first joint project of which will be the transfer and maintenance of the Patricia Aguilar Memorial Garden located in Jacksonville Beach. We're excited to be venturing into another garden whose location lends itself to naturally benefiting some of the low-income residents of the City of Jacksonville Beach.

Markets: We want to review and refine the model utilized to manage the Mid-Week Market in order to create a method of building farmers' markets that can be used in future projects.

Education: We're currently assessing our growing educational needs and opportunities and have already moved forward in securing an Education Director. We have some good stuff for a beginning curriculum but wish to develop this eventually into the long-term goal of in-school agricultural/horticulture classes with accompanying school gardens. We will be hosting another class at the Jordan community center this coming week.

Fundraising: We'll be launching new fundraising efforts and events this year. We believe 2013 will be a good year for Dig Local because many of you have already been there for us in volunteer time, donations, and moral support. As you can see, our personnel needs are growing. From an education coordinator to an administrative assistant, fundraising teams, marketing teams, etc, Dig Local is ready to we're working to define that correctly and move forward wisely.

Thank you. Your support means the world to us. Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or ideas. And thank you for letting us keep you in the loop. Hopefully we can make this newsletter a solid monthly update.

Grace and Peace,