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Tallahassee Democrat: Local gardens grow more than food

Friday, April 11, 2014

A place to daydream, a place to explore, a place to learn – community green spaces and gardens provide endless opportunities for local residents. Right here in Tallahassee, in one of the most historic neighborhoods in North Florida, is one of those places. Created to grow healthy food, engage youth and educate residents, Frenchtown’s iGrow Whatever You Like Youth Farm is a tremendous source of food and community.

Since its launch last year, the modest 2,500 square feet of raised-bed gardens in the midst of the city have attracted more than 500 community visitors, who have contributed more than 3,500 volunteer hours to raise 2,000 pounds of produce.

At Scotts Miracle-Gro, an organization founded to empower people to care for greenspaces, we are huge advocates of community gardens. I am excited to announce that the iGrow Whatever You Like Farm will now be able to bring more produce and people together through Scotts’ GRO1000 program, an initiative dedicated to adding 1,000 gardens and greenspaces to the earth by 2018.

The GRO1000 grant program is a part of a larger initiative at Scotts to invest in research, education and the benefits of healthy lawns and gardens in Florida. As evident by the iGrow Farm, gardens and lawns do much more than simply grow – they provide a sense of community and a place for family and friends to gather. They are also a vital element of our ecosystem that is working all the time to absorb water and nutrients, purify the air and keep our water clean.

Using the GRO1000 grant, the farm’s current infrastructure will be expanded to include a pavilion for community gatherings, an outdoor kitchen for cooking demonstrations and more. The facility will be run in an environmentally-friendly way, using a bio-digester to produce sustainable fuel for cooking, heating and water-pumping, as well as solar panels to help power these appliances. The expansion will involve an array of other additions, such as a produce wash station, a market stand, an enhanced composting operation and more.

These added developments will fuel a new and improved “giving garden” designed to produce food specifically for donations to less fortunate members of the Tallahassee community. Each year, the iGrow Farm has donated 500 pounds of fresh, locally-grown produce while providing educational opportunities for youth and peaceful outdoor space for all.

The further development of the iGrow Whatever You Like Farm will also provide more opportunities for food and health learning to educate community members about urban agriculture. The farm will now host more events promoting healthy and eco-friendly living for youth and adults.

These events will include cooking demonstrations, tours and workshops, made possible by partnerships with local, organic businesses. The classes will teach community members the benefits of raising and eating healthy food, and how to utilize urban agriculture in the comfort of their neighborhood.

Our hope at ScottsMiracle-Gro is that these renovations will heighten community awareness of the iGrow Whatever You Like Farm as a destination greenspace in Tallahassee — a place to eat, relax and escape the urban bustle of the city. This community garden is a step in the right direction toward community-based food systems that work for the good of everyone.

I am eager to see the positive changes that this garden brings to Frenchtown and the larger Tallahassee community, as we work toward educating and engaging youth and adults about healthy living.

Chris Allen is the south region president of the Scotts Miracle-Gro company.

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