The seeds are closer to the soil.
As the weather warms, a committee of Port St. Joe residents had a productive seven days last week as their dream of a community garden took major steps toward reality.
The committee, which includes the garden’s champion on the City Commission, Commissioner Eric Langston, received approval of a conceptual plan as well as a pledge for the city to defray insurance costs.
And, later in the week, County Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr. had an inmate crew tilling and turning the soil and cleaning up the space that will hold the garden.
That space, in Peters Park to the north and west of the Washington High Gym, was once a community garden but fell into disrepair earlier in the decade.
So, some of the necessary infrastructure, such as fencing and a tool shed, are already at the site.
Further, Public Works has offered soil and mulch as well as any extra wood which might be needed.
“There is a really good group helping us get this going,” said Kim Miller, a committee member.
The garden will be called “The Port St. Joe Community Garden;” no north, no south, just Port St. Joe.
“We want to be one city,” said Jill Bebee, a member of the committee.
The mission is to “provide nutritious produce to those in need, bring residents of all generations and areas together and to beautify our community.”
“I think it’s a bigger and greater effort to connect north and south in Port St. Joe than the sidewalks on Martin Luther King (Jr. Blvd.),” said Miller, who is also a member of the Port St. Joe Garden Club.
As a non-profit, the Garden Club, as well as local churches, would be poised to pursue the grant funding the community garden will require to purchase an array of trees and plants the committee hopes to be a foundation of the garden.
In addition, trees or bushes as well as benches in the butterfly garden would be available to be purchased as memorials.
The primary focus is development of 24 5-foot-by-30-foot raised plot beds that can be leased for $50 per year.
There will be two larger plots, 20-by-20, that will not be raised and used for crops such as corn and the plan includes a small group of fruit trees for the sharing.
The plan also includes creation of a butterfly garden which would qualify as a Monarch Waystation.
The plots, fruit trees and butterfly garden will be maintained by the Port St. Joe Community Garden committee.
The committee will work through churches and other local non-profits to identify folks in need of produce and teams that would assist in cultivating plots for those individuals.
And a shelf outside the fence would be for any extra produce donated to whoever is in need.
Outside of folks using the garden being respectful and mindful of others, Bebee said guidelines would be provided but few rigid enforceable rules.
Educational information and guidance will be offered and the garden community will offer a host of opportunities for youngsters to perform community service.
Miller noted that she and her husband had established a college scholarship for Port St. Joe High School graduating seniors several years ago and one of the components for eligibility is community service outreach.
In addition, the garden will be a hands-on for learning.
“There is an educational component,” Miller said. “We can teach kids how to take (food) from plot to plate.
“There has been a lot of community support. It’s exciting. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Other members of the community garden committee include Eddie Fields and Leetha Mathews from the Washington Improvement Group and Claire Morris.
The committee has much work to do and remains unsure if there will be a spring planting or wait to ensure all is aligned for a fall planting.
But, as Bebee noted, the American Community Garden Association characterizes such efforts as “Growing Community.”