The Boca Raton Community Garden is growing. Literally. And all for a very good cause: Did you know that, according to Boca Helping Hands, one in four Boca Raton residents is food insecure?
"It's hard to believe, but it's true," says Orli Zimmerman, a former co-chair for the Boca Raton Community Garden, a park-like space where individuals or organizations can lease plots of land to grow organic fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
In other words, one out of every four people in the city of Boca Raton is not sure where their next meal will come from.
Several years ago, the city of Boca Raton donated one-and-a-half acres to build the community garden. Now in its fourth year, the project is coordinated by the Boca Raton Junior League — a group of women committed to promoting volunteerism in their local community — who rent farmable plots for $40 to $80 apiece.
The money is used to pay for routine ground maintenance, including a solar-powered fountain and irrigation system, and at least 10 percent of each plot must be donated to Boca Helping Hands.
According to Zimmerman, the garden is doing more than supporting itself — it also provides healthy, organic fruits and vegetables for the locally-based nonprofit group serving people in the community who can't afford to feed themselves.
"Right now, our mission is to sustain this organic garden, and keep that initiative growing," said Zimmerman, who also serves on the Junior League's CHOW committee.
To keep the community garden thriving, Zimmerman says residential support is essential. In 2013, the BRCG grew considerably, adding 30 plots since its launch in 2011. Today, the garden continues to grow, now offering more than 75 plots and two unique areas including a Permaculture Food Forest and Wildflower Walk.
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The permaculture area is truly unique, an example of a self-sustaining agriculture system designed to mimic natural ecosystems. The garden currently features a number of tropical plants indigenous to South Florida, including mango, pineapple, and sapodilla.
"This project is really amazing, and it's come a long way in the past few years. We're promoting sustainability, environmentalism, education and addressing the needs of the community. But I think a lot of people still don't know this is even here, or what they can do to help," said Zimmerman. "My hope is that more people get involved, and support the expansion of similar gardens in the surrounding communities."
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.