While riding down Orange Avenue west of Monroe Street, many people are so determined to reach their destination that they often overlook the land across from the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. In this area lies the Florida A&M University Community Garden, a place where a fertile mind can cultivate a love for agriculture.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, the FAMU Community Garden held its open house for the public to learn about the gardening that takes place within this three-acre expanse. The open house concluded an entire week of special campus activities sponsored by the FAMU Sustainability Institute to commemorate Earth Week. Even under overcast skies and the likelihood of rain, farmers still tended to their plots and offered their advice.
According to garden manager Trevor Hylton, Extension Agent with FAMU and University of Florida IFAS Extension, the community garden is one of the oldest in the state. It was established on the southern end of the campus property over 40 years ago, and is maintained by FAMU and the Leon County Cooperative Extension service. The garden contains 71 plots that are 40 by 40 feet wide. “We give away a lot of food; it’s a lot more for teaching than anything else,” said Hylton. Members grow produce for their family and community.
FAMU Community Garden welcomes newcomers and allows gardeners to plant whatever their hearts desire. Those who attended the open house witnessed a melting pot of members with various backgrounds that reflect growing traditions from around the world, including plants traditional to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Many gardeners were on hand to explain what they are growing to interested members of the public.
Charlotta Ivy, minister at the Sowing Seeds Sewing Comfort Ministry Sanctuary Garden, was tending to her plot during the open house. Ivy has been growing at the community garden for 2.5 years and gets help from volunteers at the church and members of the community. They are currently growing tomatoes, carrots, Brussel’s sprouts, watermelon, and more. Ivy also uses all natural fertilizer – “worm poop” – to fertilize the plants. She explained that everything they grow is either donated or kept by volunteers. “We give out food to senior citizens and family in community,” she said.
In 2014, FAMU students began gardening on one plot. Ursula Ible, one of the students who began the FAMU student plot, said the garden’s open house was a great opportunity to teach and show the work that gardeners do. “No matter what organization you are a part of, you should get involved with gardening because it will prioritize your nutrition and eating habits,” Ible said.
Hylton noted that every year the FAMU community garden donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to charitable organizations. “FAMU’s community garden has been a stalwart in the community and has become the standard bearer for community gardens, with an unmatched endurance, because it is guided by the creeds of the University’s motto ‘Excellence with Caring,” he said.