I've heard about urban garden projects sprouting up throughout the South Florida community, but I've never had the chance to see one. A few months ago, a friend told me about a community garden that was in the start-up phase in Pompano Beach called the Fruitful Field, which is currently operated in conjunction with the Parkway United Methodist Church (though it may branch off as a separate nonprofit soon). The organizers -- all volunteers -- turned a barren field into a lush green space dedicated to growing safe and sustainable food.
Garden veggies and fruits du jour
|Garden veggies and fruits du jour|
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On a recent Saturday, the folks from the garden invited me for a visit, where I got to finally see the hidden gem tucked away in a gritty neighborhood. As I walked through the gates of the Fruitful Field, I spotted the inviting sign that read "Community Garden" and knew I had come to the right place. Immediately to my left, I saw a scarecrow and a grid layout of garden plots filled with herbs, shrubs, and organic produce. There, I chatted with some of the garden volunteers and the organizers, Miguel Afonso and Flavio Sloat. What I got was an education in food sustainability, a tour of the garden, and a slice of yummy Key lime pie made with Key limes picked from the Fruitful Field.
Miguel gave me a rundown on permaculture and walked me through the Food Forest. Miguel describes the Food Forest as a sustainable "Island of food" that was designed to "mimic the establishment of a mature ecosystem that provides food and is resilient." He explains that by mimicking "the seven layers of a forest, one is able to increase the density of food productivity," which is ideal for the urban landscape: growing more in a smaller space.
The Afonso brothers, Alex and Miguel, shifting soil in the Food Forest.
The Fruitful Field is composed of 50 garden plots, 18 of which are available for individuals to rent for $10 a season, running from September to August. And the rest of the plots are designated for the Food Pantry program -- they grow food and donate it to the homeless. Miguel pointed out that the purpose is to supplement the usual canned foods people donate with fresh, nutritious produce.
There are more than 200 fruit trees planted at the field and plenty of vegetable varieties for onlookers.
When I asked Flavio what time of day the gardeners show up, he jokingly responded, "We're urban people. We don't believe in starting at 5 a.m. The early crowd started at 9 a.m."
For those who are curious, stop by any Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon to take a tour of the place and to speak with one of the organizers. Volunteers are also welcome to help garden. For now, food is not for sale, but organizers hope to offer cooking and gardening classes soon and may sell fruit at some point. Check out their website and Facebook page for additional information.