Two food farmers engage the community through garden

The community garden, Smarter by Nature, grows foods for profitable resale, as well as members of the Tallahassee area who may lack immediate access to food.
Photo Submitted by Joshua Bonsell.

The natural effort to sustain life on Earth has been taken for granted and the human use of earth’s natural resources are nearly second nature; however, these two farmers are willing to sacrifice in order to show their gratitude for this living, breathing planet we call home.

Owners and creators of Smarter by Nature, Angelique Taylor and David Ritchy, are local vegetable farmers who grow foods for profitable resale, as well as members of the Tallahassee area who may lack immediate access to food.

Gabrielle Maynard, Market Manager at the Frenchtown Farmers Market loved the idea of having the food sold at the Farmer’s market. She believed it showcased the benefits of permaculture.

“I met David and Angelique through another friend, and felt like they would be great fit for the market based on the things they’re doing out on their farm in the way of permaculture,” explained Maynard.

The Promise Land Urban Youth Farm, owned by Pastor Eric L. Johnson of Greater Love Church, is on the corner of 510 E. Orange Ave. and is about the length of a football field. Childlike decorum decorates the wooden fenced perimeter, as if the garden sat inside, was something sacred. The garden is split into two equal farming sections.

On the left half was a vast array of produce. Taylor explained how a variety of what is grown goes directly back to the community. “Kale, curly kale, mustards, purple mustards, carrots, beets, and turnips are grown,” described Taylor. “Along with many several other own-grown vegetables sold at the local Frenchtown Farmer’s Market on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”

On the right side of the garden, three children, none older than 12 years-old were digging in the soil, utilizing gardening tools in what is the community portion of the garden.

These volunteers were instructed to help assist in creating a new bed to plant some collard greens and kale. Taylor went on to explain any of these volunteers are allowed to take some of these greens home once they are finished.

Volunteers are welcome to the Youth Farm on Sundays from 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. One of the volunteers admitted she liked to participate because it addressed the issue of food deserts and it gave the community an opportunity to grow nutritious food. She went on to state the community garden teaches kids how to grow food and for everyone to give back to the community.

30 minutes passed, as ten relatively young volunteers slowly migrated towards Taylor and Ritchy awaiting instructions to help assist harvesting the gardened food. “We are usually out here three to four times a week,” Ritchy noted. Keeping the two business partners on their toes, aside from assisting volunteers.

In 2017, Taylor and Ritchy started as former volunteers for a non-profit organization called iGrow, which is a “Frenchtown-based youth program of the Tallahassee Food Network that grows fresh fruits and veggies,” according to the Frenchtown Heritage website. Here, the pair helped create a food forest from an area without any real growth.

Ritchy recalled the moment he saw what is now the food forest.

“One day I pointed out this empty lot to her and was just like ‘yeah, we should do something here, said Ritchy.

Taylor then went on to add how the pair started learning about permaculture and layers to a forest. Then the duo got the idea of an edible landscape, somewhere the community could come and walk around just having food available.

During the culmination of this vision, Taylor explained how the name for the community garden actually came about.

“We were coming out here at 7 o’clock in the morning, not getting paid, just to really be in nature,” Taylor admitted. “Nature is the teacher, we learned more about nature…in nature, and this is generally where the name comes.”

In their profession, it is unlikely that Ritchy and Taylor will see other individuals of their age or race. “There is a lack of young farmers, and not many young black farmers in this area. I feel like we might be the only ones,” Taylor admitted, making Smarter by Nature a one of a kind community garden.

These farmers teach individuals who are willing to learn, how to transform a bed of weeds and turn it into a growing food harvest, all while doing the same for themselves. Going the extra mile as farmers and as members of their community.

For more information on Smarter by Nature, they can be reached on Facebook and Instagram at: @smarterbynature