Community grows new garden at Sanderlin IB
By Theresa Henson
Neighborhood News Bureau
Kicking off the new year right with a hands-on- project promoting healthy food choices, Sanderlin IB World School welcomed its own edible garden during a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning.
The garden is part of the Edible Peace Patch Project which is a non-profit organization that began in 2009 at Lakewood Elementary. The project is dedicated to the cultivation of sustainable urban agriculture, promoting healthy food choices in elementary science education and developing social capital in Southside and Midtown areas of St.Petersburg.
More than 50 volunteers, including community members, project board staff, school staff and students, committed their morning and afternoon to help build and create an edible garden that should be up and running within the month.
The organization runs off grants and donations and was thankful for the contributions made for the garden, including donations from Lowes, Home Depot, a local brush site, and USFSP student Philanthropy board that donated a $5,000 grant to jumpstart the project.
“I’m so excited to see so many involved,” said Kip Curtis, associate professor of environmental studies at Eckerd College. “We’ll be getting the kids to think about healthy choices, so when we begin to get the food into the cafeteria, the kids will choose what they’ve grown themselves.”
Working with Pinellas County Schools, the Health Department of Pinellas, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and Eckerd College, the project board welcomed volunteers from all over the St.Petersburg community including 150 Eckerd College students since 2009.
“The gardens are a resource for academics in science, math, health education and even reading,” Curtis said. “Teachers will use it as collection data for experimentation in science classes while parents, staff and Eckerd students will help teach the children gardening skills and how to make healthy eating choices.”
While planning to work directly with the sixth-grade students, Sanderlin plans to have all grade levels involved with the up-keep and maintenance of the garden. Teachers plan to integrate the garden into academic schedules in all course areas and grade levels.
“Since the first garden, the project has blossomed and grown so much that we plan to put in a total of four edible gardens this year,” said Joe Esposito, board of director’s member for Edible Peace Patch. “The kids desire to make healthy food choices has really made the project gain academic support within the schools.”
The project plans to build and create an urban commercial farm on the south side of St.Petersburg.
“We plan to build a full-scale urban commercial farm that will fulfill the need to eat more healthy foods,” Esposito said. “Hopefully, with fingers crossed, we can serve these foods that the children grow in their own cafeterias and even in the downtown St.Petersburg farmers market on Saturdays.”
The first garden built in 2009 at Lakewood was about twice the size, but the smaller one at Sanderlin will be easier to maintain, Curtis said.
“We want something that’s going to be manageable by the students at Eckerd and the teachers at Sanderlin, in hopes that the garden will remain something that the children can easily be involved with,” Curtis said.
The garden at Sanderlin will use an organic German method of gardening called “HugelKultur.” The method is known for use of recyclable resources such as shrimp shells, fish, fallen logs and pruned branches.
“We plan to save the city money throughout this project; every time they don’t sell these things, we’ll use them and turn waste into organic material to grow food with,” Curtis said.
Emmanuel Roux, a Peace Patch board member, runs and maintains two community gardens in the St.Petersburg area.
“I have more than 40 residents recovering from substance abuse that actively participate in the garden at Faith House, and another garden by the Oakdale Christmas house,” Roux said. “Gardens not only educate, they bring people together in the community and I think you can already see that here at Sanderlin today.”
Sanderlin will host another open gardening day Saturday, Jan. 28, where volunteers can help the project for round two from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.