News-Sun photo by SAMANTHA GHOLAR Tonda Rowe, a three month resident at the AP Transitional Housing, waters her newly planted spinach and basil. Rowe is one of the 16 families that are encouraged to grow, eat and sell their own produce from the community garden.
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published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
AP Housing Authority cultivating opportunity in Self Sufficiency Garden
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK -- It's planting season in Highlands County and community members, volunteers and businesses have teamed up to bring together a unique project that will benefit the lives of many.
The Avon Park Housing Authority created a learning opportunity for its residents and the project is in full swing.
The Self Sufficiency Garden is the newest portion of the APHA mission for its residents.
"One of the things we have to do for the renovation of the housing is to provide programs for our transitional housing residents. We have educational, job training and now with this community garden we are teaching self sufficiency," said Bea Gillians, APHA housing specialist.
The garden project was created in May, Gillians said, and Tuesday morning brought the residents' first opportunity to get out and get their hands dirty.
"The intent of this project is to assist the residents who choose to participate in this program to grow and produce food for their own tables. Also, (there is) the possibility of joining other residents to have a resident-operated vegetable stand open to the public, opening another avenue of self sufficiency," case manager Cameron Barnard stated in a news release.
The project was brought together by a number of volunteers and businesses, including Avon Park Walmart manager Steve Skiba (who provided a $2,000 grant), Classic Caladiums, Hillary Topsoil, Home Depot, Lords Farm, McCracken Farms and Ridge Area Arc.
Master gardeners from the University of Florida's Highlands County Extension Office are also a huge part of the project, providing residents with hands-on information and assistance as they begin their gardening projects.
Volunteers Mike Jensen and Charlie Reynolds showed residents the different types of plants and seedlings available to be planted during this season.
"Today is a pretty good example of what we do with sustainability in the community," Jensen said.
Reynolds showed residents a number of different plants that are native to Florida and how they are beneficial to the garden as well as to the residents.
Everything from hibiscus to strawberries were discussed, and many residents started planting right away.
Spinach, tomatoes, peppers and okra were just a few of the plants that residents can look forward to picking in a few short months.
Sixteen families will be able to use the garden and benefit from the fresh produce. Barnard encouraged the families to sell their crops for profit as well as share with other families in the community.
Each week, master gardeners will visit APHA to help residents with any questions, bug problems, or any other issues that may arise with the garden.
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