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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Community garden fundraiser to support youth lessons

An oasis in the middle of a food desert, the Fred Cone Park community garden has let east Gainesville residents plant their own greens since August.

Now, the garden is seeking online donations to expand its youth outreach.

The 30-day fundraising campaign, launched Nov. 15 by the Florida Organic Growers nonprofit, aims to raise $600 to formalize the weekly gardening lessons the organization gives to elementary school students, said Tyler Nesbit, the education and outreach coordinator for Florida Organic Growers.

Each Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., children ages 5 to 13 visit the garden to learn about topics like soil organisms, organic pest control and the importance of natural growing techniques.

“(We’re) helping students to connect consumer goods in our modern society with deeper thought about where those resources are coming from,” Nesbit said.

Since planting began in the fall, students have grown crops like collard greens, broccoli and kale in the four beds of their learning garden, Nesbit said. The children’s area neighbors the plots owned by about 11 other registered gardeners, most of whom are elders, said UF graduate research assistant Karissa Raymond, the garden’s founder.

“We decided it would be a good idea to have older residents as well as younger residents for cross-generational learning,” Raymond said.

Raymond said she hadn’t heard about Florida Organic Growers’ fundraiser for the youth lessons. She said their work is independent, going toward their own initiatives in the garden space.

Money raised through the campaign will go to seeds, hand tools and covering the cost of printing a gardening manual for students to take home, Nesbit said. If Florida Organic Growers is one of the 50 first organizations that raises $600 by Dec. 15, it’ll receive a bonus $400 “challenge grant” directly from the fundraising platform SeedMoney, according to SeedMoney’s website.

"The students really enjoy it," Nesbit said. "It's one of their favorite things they do every week."

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