By Ian Hunter and Craig Chapman

The benefits of community gardens are endless: reduction of greenhouse gases, local economic benefits, increased property values, the opportunity to teach new job skills to people, bringing fresh food in to areas that are otherwise considered food deserts, and most of all how delicious fresh fruits and vegetables taste and how rewarding it is to eat something you helped to cultivate.

Reaping the rewards of gardening can also be had at home. Starting your own simple vegetable or herb garden at home can add splashes of freshness to your meals. Also the concept of “eating locally” can scale up from local community gardens to a new line up of “garden to glass cocktails” that several local restaurants in Brevard are now crafting.

Here are just a few people, organization, and companies in our area that are bringing freshness full circle – from community garden, to back yard garden, to a night out on the town.

Set along the railroad tracks, somewhere between Prospect Avenue and Line Street, off US1 near Downtown Melbourne, two women came across a small unused plot of land and had a vision, a vision to start a community garden. In March 2012 those two women, Lori Thoms and Katherine Martin made that vision come true and that garden has now become a beacon of food hope for the neighborhood it resides in.

“This area is considered a food desert, which means there’s no place in this area for people to buy fresh produce. That’s why we chose this particular area to start a garden,” said Lori. “A lot of people are limited to buying cans of food. So our big goal when we first started was not just to have a garden to teach people how to grow, we wanted a kitchen so we could teach people how to also prepare fresh food.”

It has made such a difference that it’s created an outpouring of involvement from volunteers, local schools, church groups, and from the garden’s next-door neighbor CITA.

“The number one part of the mission is education and just trying to help others see how to grow things organically in Florida,” Katherine said. “Growing things in Florida is very different. We’ve been partners with CITA for quite a while. They enjoy the produce that comes from the garden and now we’re at the point where they want to put people here to help us in the gardens so we can teach them not only gardening but transferable job skills.”

Buddy Morrow, Director for the CITA Mission adds, “Agriculture is a big business in our state and we are getting our men involved here to use it as job training.”

Volunteers leave with a positive impact on their lives, in many different ways. “You’re doing something good for the community and you also get to take home a ton of fresh produce,” Lori said. “There’s a mix of ages who come… It’s a pretty good blend. It’s neat to see younger kids out working with elderly people. It’s something all generations can benefit from and I don’t think it happens enough in our society.”

But how much can one small community garden produce you might ask? More than you would think.

“We have had a banner year for harvests! Each year we work really hard amending the soil, adding more organic matter into it,” said Lori.

“It’s very difficult to grow in Florida, especially organically. The heat the humidity which increases the fungus and pests… We grow mostly vegetables and herbs: basil, rosemary, cilantro, mint, dill.”

With all of the amazing things Seeds for Change has done for the community, Lori and Katherine see the sheer volume of their harvests as their biggest accomplishment. One week can yield up to 75 pounds of produce!

A small community garden that has proven a little hard work, sweat and ingenuity can create lifelong change to everyone involved and feed them – mind, body and soul.

Seeds for Change
2404 S. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne
(321) 693-0757