Jacksonville Community Garden Expo

Saturday, I attended the Jacksonville Community Garden Expo with my girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth (a native and resident of Jacksonville) and my niece.  (Mary Elizabeth coordinates the garden at the Sanctuary on 8th Street, an after school program in Jacksonville's Springfield neighborhood.)  The event was hosted by the Garden at Jackson Square Community Garden, coordinated by the Sulzbacher Center.

From fellow food gardeners to community gardeners to nurseries to the UF extension all manner of garden projects, resources, and initiatives were exhibiting.  I connected most with Pam Kleinsasser who works at Nemours Clinic and coordinates their community garden.  Having just read this article in Organic Gardening  about corporate gardens, I was enthralled by Pam's story.

"If you want to know how it really started...," she started.  "It really started with assembling a team."  Pam, it turns out, is quite the "troop-rallyer"or community organizer.  A few years back she grew uncomfortable with the magnitude of recyclable waste that was being thrown away, especially paper.  She assembled a team that volunteered to coordinate the extra work.  Then, in 2009, while continuing the paper recycling project-- significantly aided by paperretriever.com-- Pam got a new idea: a company community garden.  She re-approached the administration selling the idea with words like "team building," "wellness," "publicity."  With admin approval in-hand, Pam sent out an email to staff saying, in effect, "We're starting a community garden in the grassy patch adjacent to the building. Email back if you're interested in participating."  The first year, if I remember correctly, 30 folks signed up.  This year there are 50 participating (out of 400 staff).

Each year, the gardeners divide the 1300 square feet into equivalent plots.  There is also a common herb bed (which folks share) and a strawberry bed for the children who come to the clinic.  Nemours provides water and yearly compost.  The rest (plants, seeds, etc) is the responsibility of the individual gardeners.  Due to being in the health care profession and due to their location on the St John's River, they use organic practices.

The Nemours Community Garden is a great model from which to develop a garden with your co-workers.  Pam has volunteered to share stories and otherwise assist others in the process of starting community gardens at their work places.  If you'd like to get in touch with her, send me an email with subject line "Pam at Nemours," and I'll put you in touch.