ECHO Community Garden Newsletter - August 2011
- Florida Ag in the Classroom Workshop Training: "Gardening for Grades"
September 24, 2011
- Community Garden Training Day
Unique Fall Veggies
Benincasa hispida, Wax Gourd – This cucurbit can be eaten like summer squash. It thrives in the hot, humid tropics, can be stored for many months, and grows year round in the tropics! Be careful, though, wax gourd doesn’t care for frosts in the winter.
Sauropus androgynus, Katuk – Popular for its edible leaves and ability to survive hot and humid conditions, even some flooding, katuk is a perennial nutrition booster. Just ½ cup of fresh katuk leaves supplies 22% of the daily requirement for Vitamin A and a substantial amount of Vitamin C!
Amaranthus tricolor, Vegetable Amaranth – This ‘ancient grain’ was a favorite of the Aztecs, often toasting or popping the seeds similar to popcorn! Amaranth seeds are rich in protein and amino acids.
What is growing in your garden this fall? Tell us about the unique vegetables you are growing (at firstname.lastname@example.org) and you may be featured in our next newsletter issue!
Be Part of the Conversation!
You are a an integral part of not only the communities of Southwest Florida, but communities around the world. Though soils may be different, minds are no less passionate.
Enjoy this edition of the ECHO Community Gardens newsletter - sharing stories and garden ideas from unique agriculture projects of which you are a part.
POSTMARKED: Florida, USA
Heartland Gardens, Fort Myers, Florida
A growing paradise, just outside your car window. Vehicles whiz past, did you catch a glimpse?
Heartland Gardens, a local community garden project, finds its home in the empty lot next to Benchmark Contractors, just off McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, FL. Concentric circles, a labyrinth, are the framework for this garden—an open invitation to individuals of all ages and backgrounds, to come, to walk though, and to experience the creativity of food production through gardens. Heartland Gardens, now a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, embodies a mission of education; educating the public on the benefits of local, organically grown food. This mission expands as the project founders seek to equip individuals with the tools to achieve nutritional wellness and self-sustainability through “the creation of food producing gardens”. Vegetable and grain amaranth heads stand valiantly amidst sunflowers which are planted specifically for oil and seed; an array of basil plants of several varieties lure one's senses and tantalize the palette. One can’t help but walk on! Planted currently in the garden are hot peppers, sorghum (grain), eggplant, corn, black-eyed peas, and okra. A pleasing summer salad is also growing: swiss chard, Lagos spinach, malabar spinach, and cherry tomatoes! As you are well aware, summer vegetable gardening can be quite a challenge, but Heartland Gardens is reaping the benefits of diligent labor and organic pest management, and sharing the harvest with their community. Care to join in? In keeping with their mission, Heartland Gardens provides several on-site training courses and community workshops, which stimulates learning from one another - fueling shared passions for nutrition and agricultural education. This fall they will be offering a course entitled, “Grow Your Food.” This fourteen week course will instruct community members on methods of sustainable farming practices, known as Grow Biointensive, as well as instruction regarding permaculture techniques. But, the education does not stop here! Next spring, Heartland Gardens intends to offer an intensive Permaculture Design Course, taught by nationally known expert, Wayne Weissman.
So why? Just ask founding project leaders, Ben and Andrea, what inspired them to begin this project. Heart failure, stroke, cancer, and diabetes; they just cannot keep themselves from doing something to help promote healthy lifestyles and proper cultivation of nutritious foods. Utilizing the garden for lessons in sustainability, nutrition, and ‘how to grow your diet,’ the community members who call ‘home’ Heartland Gardens are inspiring others to live in hope and in control of their plates. Will you join them?
Advice from project directors at Heartland Gardens: “It’s all about the community! Growing organic food is rewarding, but bringing it to the people and teaching them how to do it themselves is how to change the world. Make networking and collaboration a priority and you will not be disappointed.”
Community volunteers are encouraged to join the efforts of Heartland Gardens through membership. There are various ways you, too, can be involved in the garden! For more information or to join the efforts and work the garden, visit: http://heartlandgardens.org/
Postmarked: Laos, Southeast Asia
Sang Thong District, Laos
This month's overseas project highlight shares the story of a farmer and his experiences with large and small scale agriculture. Article written by ECHO intern, Amy VanNocker.
Walking down the dusty footpath to Mr. Thongkham Pienasah’s small bamboo hut, it’s hard to believe that this land was once covered with nothing more than tall grass used for making thatched roofs. “It was never a very profitable business,” he admits. These days, with help from MCC*, Mr. Pienasah has converted this acre of land into an integrated garden, boasting more than sixty chickens, three kinds of fish, and six varieties of fruit trees.
Mr. Pienasah came to this small village (Ban Khua) about nine years ago, and the peace and security he is afforded now contrasts greatly with the tribulations of his past. Born in Thailand, he left the country with his family at age 10 due to tension between the Americans and the French. He served as a layman in a local Buddhist temple and later as a soldier in the Lao Army before eventually settling down with his wife and becoming a rice farmer.
When MCC sent an agricultural service worker to his province three years ago, Mr. Pienasah took advantage of the workshops offered and started to learn basic gardening skills. He now has a separate area reserved in his plot for experimentation, where he practices those lessons about grafting plants and starting healthy seedlings. Mr. Pienasah fondly recalls that service worker now; “I didn’t know anything about organics and making compost until he came,” he says. He shakes his head at this fact, smiling because these simple skills are now second nature to him.
Along with the workshops, MCC loaned Mr. Pienasah 300,000 kip (abut US$35) in 2006 to start his fish ponds. His face beams as he proudly reports that he repaid his loan within the year, and was left with more than $200 profit and enough fish to sustain the endeavor. As we are talking, his youngest daughter comes skipping through the field with a bucket, sent by her mother to collect a fish for dinner. He quiets for a moment, watching the girl net a large silvery fish at the end of the dock. It is obvious that Mr. Pienasah gets even more pleasure from the fact that, because of his thriving garden, his family consistently has enough food. They go to market only for bigger purchases like beef, or a few specific crops that he doesn’t grow. The 25 assorted fruit seedlings that MCC donated that same year now produce healthy mangoes, oranges, jackfruits, coconuts, lemons, and pineapples.
Even without my asking, Mr. Pienasah eagerly mentions that his family life has improved significantly since he began the garden. Because they no longer have to spend much money on food, the family was able to partially fund their daughter’s higher education - something Mr. Pienasah’s own parents weren’t able to offer him as rice farmers. Just around the time when the garden began to flourish, his eldest daughter had called from the capital, where she was finishing high school. “She asked me if I thought she should continue studying and obtain her BA,” he reflects. “And I said yes, absolutely, even though we could not have afforded that before.”
He has certainly faced setbacks as well, such as when someone stole thirty of his chickens, and when the mango trees contracted disease for a season. Most significantly, Mr. Pienasah lost his eldest son to a motorcycle accident in Thailand last year and the light in his eyes still dims as he recalls the event. “It is just such a shame… but I am tired of crying now. I cried for an entire year. Many trees died during that time because I neglected them.”
Thinking about the future, Mr. Pienasah says he would like to have electricity in his house, build a water storage tank, and continue to produce even more fish and fruit. Pointing to another footpath that winds along the border of his property, Mr. Pienasah adds, “I am very interested in the integration of things now. That’s why I paid to improve this path that leads to the school. Maybe when the students walk by every day they will remember the importance of working together, and that everything is connected.”
*Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
Inspired by these stories?
Check out the ECHO Community Garden Assistance Program!
ECHO Community Garden Assistance
Garden Connections: Resources & Thoughts
Community Garden Toolkit
A new resource! The ECHO Community Garden TOOLKIT is now at your fingertips. We hope this guide will motivate you to discover the diversity of resources available within your community to meet the felt needs of your community, as well as promote inter-cultural understanding of issues regarding hunger, poverty, and justice in sustainable agriculture around the world.
Download the Toolkit here.
Classroom Focus: Concerned about Hunger?
This week at ECHO, four visitiors from Bolivia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana captured our attention as they shared about how the communities in which they live and work are overcoming agricultural challenges accross the globe. Each project addressed the felt needs of the community - for some this was an integrative savings program, for others it involved agricultural development in the form of education and training. What was the common element that brought these four individauls together from various parts of the globe to our home here in Fort Myers, FL? The Foods Resource Bank.
Foods Resource Bank is a nonproft organization embodying a mission to "alleviate world hunger by globally connecting local communities through agriculture." Unique to FRB, this mission highlights food security issues in many part of the world, inviting local communities to support the efforts of farmers. Combining funding and awareness, FRB has created a movement of "Growing Projects"--opportunities for local U.S. farmers, community gardeners, and students to be a part of alleviating hunger. Interested? You might just be the first Growing Project in Fort Myers, FL!
Learn more about FRB and Growing Projects: http://www.foodsresourcebank.org.
Garden thoughts from the boxes, tires, and raised beds of our community.
What is growing well in your community or schoolyard garden? What beneficial insects are making their home among your crops? What have you harvested so far this season? We would love to hear your thoughts! Write to Katie, at email@example.com, and your project ideas may be included in our next edition of Postmarked!
Curious? Learn more about ECHO projects and research here:
'Postmarked' is an electronic newsletter created by Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization to connect, share, and celebrate the efforts, ideas, and challenges of students, teachers, and community members involved in community gardens in the United States and around the world.