Three Stellar Women and a Community Garden

1)This morning, I met with Maggie Theriot, Sustainability Coordinator for Leon County.  She heads the Office of Sustainability.  A large part of her job right now is event planning for the Leon County Sustainable Communities Summit 2010 which will focus on "how to foster a sustainable local economy and the importance of sustainable food systems." 

Last fall, Maggie got in touch with me about being involved with the Summit.  She was looking for referrals for farmers and other folks engaged in making our local food system more sustainable.  She also indicated that I might could serve in some kind of public capacity at the event itself-- whether exhibiting or speaking-- since my food gardening entrepreneurship happened to overlap so perfectly with the Summit's two main focuses.

But that's not why I met with her today.

We met today to talk about her ongoing work in partnership with and under the direction of the County Commission and and the Leon County Agricultural Extension Agency to identify county land that could be used for community garden space.  The working idea is to conduct three pilot or "test" community gardens in order to get their (community gardening) feet wet. 

How about that, eh?

2) At two, I met with Elizabeth Swiman in FSU's Center for Civic Engagement.  The reason for the meeting was twofold.  First of all, last fall Elizabeth coordinated an excellent forum about how to facilitate partnerships between professors and community agencies in order to open service learning opportunities for students.  With hopes to bring together the many disparate individuals and organizations working in, on, and around community gardens here in the Greater Tallahassee area, I hoped to pick Elizabeth's brain about how she coordinated the forum last fall.  And, the second reason for the meeting: business.  I heard from a mutual friend that she just might want my expertise in starting a garden.

Turns out, Elizabeth is also interested in bringing the many community gardening coordinators, organizers and activists together because an increasing number of her students are interested in learning to grow food, community gardens, urban farming, etc.  And she needs agencies and programs to direct students towards.  Synergy?

3)After months of communication by email, I finally stopped in to visit Gayle, one of my down-the-road neighbors.  She gave me a tour of her garden: raised-beds filled with kale, huge heads of cabbage, sugar-sweet carrots, onions, broccoli, mini-turnips, and lettuces.  Gayle also has pear and mahaw trees, loquats, raspberries, an orange tree, lemon, satsuma, and a giant fig tree.  And get this: she makes fruit wine.  Lots of it.  She graced me with a taste of her "cherry pie wine."  I swear, just smelling it caused my cheeks to pucker and start gushing just as if I'd taken a big ole bite of delicious pie.  Wow.  Tomorrow she's making orange-ginger wine.  Whoa.  In case you're interested, on Sat. Feb 27, she's hosting a benefit wine tasting just after the Big Bend Community Orchestra's 4pm performance at TCC.

4) Okay, I lied.  There was a fourth woman.  And a man.  After chatting with Gayle about gardens and homemade wine, I ran over to the 4th Ave Frenchtown Community Garden to see my buddy, Mark Tancig and Anna Lee.  Mark Tancig is the garden coordinator, and he's out there gardening with the kids from the community center every Thursday after school from around 4:30 to about 5:30/6.  (You can read his stories on the Damayan Garden Project Blog.)  Anna Lee, who works at the Healing Center on Park Ave has recently undertaken to create an edible landscape according to Permaculture principles on her personal land near Chaires.

Mark, Anna and I-- along with the kids of the community center and FSU students referred to the garden by Elizabeth Swimann-- tended rows of collard greens, prepped soil, planted seeds, and watered the garden. 

It was an appropriate ending to a great day.  Food gardens: that's what all this work is about.