Neighborhood garden offers citizens chance to grow

Three times a week Glover Harris can be seen from Orange Avenue watering his butter beans, collard greens and tomatoes.

“I retired about six years ago,” said Harris, a former employee of the Department of Labor. For the past 18 years Harris has participated in a community garden that is part of a cooperative extension program hosted by the College of Engineering

Sciences Technology and Agriculture in Florida A&M University.

“It gives you something to do,” Harris said.

The cooperative extension program is a joint venture among the federal, state and county governments.

“Its mission is to serve the populous through agriculture and natural resources,” said Damon Miller, the extension specialist for FAMU.

FAMU’s community garden program has been in existence for 34 years.

“The original location was on Adams Street next to the swine unit where Phase 10 and the alumni clubhouse are located now,” Miller said.

Community garden participants pay $20 a year for a 40-by-40 plot in the garden. Patrons said they use the garden as recreation and a form of relaxation.

“It is very therapeutic,” said Al King, a chef instructor at Capital Culinary Institute of Keiser University.

“You put the seeds in the ground, and a couple of weeks later you have vegetables,” he said.

King said he was riding around Tallahassee when he found the garden.

“I have always wanted a garden,” King said. “You don’t know what you are getting in the stores, but what you get out of your garden is comforting because you know what you put in it.”

King commented on the diversity of the families involved in the program. He said the diversity in culture also contributes to the different planting methods used. Miller agrees that this diversity represents a large cross section of Tallahassee and neighboring communities. There is also a variety in terms of what is planted, ranging from vegetables to flowers.

“Some people grow all organic things,” said King, who uses fertilizer for his vegetables. “It is all about trial and error.”

The community garden is largely a form of recreation for the participants who socialize while they are planting.

“Sometimes it’s about bragging rights between the guys,” Harris said.

The patrons of the community garden are not allowed to sell the vegetables they grow in the garden. Gardeners said they frequently give away their vegetables to other members of the community. “It gives you a good feeling, to be able to grow this stuff and share with your neighbors,” King said.

The garden has impacted a large number of members from Tallahassee and neighboring communities, because of participant sharing.

“About 65 plots are occupied,” Miller said. More than 700 people benefit from the garden through the work of the 65 families involved.

The community garden program has grown from a program that was originally made up of retired FAMU faculty to people within the community.

“This year is the first time we have more new individuals than we ever had,” Miller said.

Although students have participated in the program to a certain degree, Miller said he would like to see more students becoming involved.

“I would be tickled to death if a student organization would come and take a plot,” Miller said. “Students have a tendency to come at the last minute. They don’t come at the first of the year like they should.”

Despite this fact, the program’s popularity is growing among members of the community, as there is a waiting list for people who want to participate next year.