BY JAMES HARPER
The Chiles Academy will be hosting Daytona Beach’s first Earth Day Festival on April 22. Organizers are hoping this will be an annual event.
Forty-two years ago, the first Earth Day was held nationwide involving over 20 million Americans “to celebrate the Earth and promote awareness of the work needed to protect the environment through teach-ins and rallies,” according to a press release.
Today, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide and many causes are championed such as renewable energy, clean water, stronger communities and eating healthy foods.
Anne K. Ferguson, executive director of the Chiles Academy, says the idea of celebrating Earth Day at the school came about because of their community garden.
Ferguson said that in January 2011 Chiles Academy broke ground on the Bonner Center Community Garden with help from Joel Tippens of Salt of the Earth and eventually local organizations who shared their time, expertise and supplies.
“The garden now provides fresh produce to the school and acts as an educational resource for teaching organic gardening. It also provides free gardening plots to the community along with expert advice, supplies, and a friendly community,” Ferguson explained.
This year’s Earth Day event will be in support of the garden. The festival will be featuring local farmers, merchants, businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
There will be live music, events for all ages, workshops, and many other events throughout the day.
Fresh food for students
The mission of the Chiles Academy is to combine a community of support and guidance for pregnant and parenting students with the goal of attaining a high school diploma, which will empower them to become independent and responsible citizens. The academy serves 150 pregnant/parenting teens and children in Volusia County.
Ferguson said what’s grown in the garden is used at the school to feed the students. She added that the produce also is available to residents in the city.
“A community garden helps people who live in poverty have access to fresh vegetables and fruits,” said Ferguson.
Camille Holder Brown, the founder of Midtown Eco Village and her husband, Omar, have been volunteers at the garden and plan to be one of the vendors at the festival.
The couple is also a co-organizer of the event.
“We are having eco-friendly vendors, showing the movie “Food Inc.’’ and have free activities and entertainment all day,” Camille Brown said.
Brown said there will also be a hybrid car on display, free face painting, a clothes swap, field day games and Bethune-Cookman College students will be constructing a sundial.
“My husband Omar Brown, ‘Farmer Brown’ as I so fondly call him, has been growing food since he was a little boy with his grandfather and is now working on a large plot in Chiles’ Community Garden,’’ she added.
‘Plotting and planning’
Jody Williams also has volunteered at the garden and says she enjoys spreading the word about it and the school.
“The Community Garden attracted me because I like gardens and vegetables and meeting new people and working and learning together. I learned a lot about the nutritional value of fresh foods for everyone but especially for folks in neighborhoods without good supermarkets or sources of fresh foods,” said Williams.
“I got excited to see what local folks, including college students and neighbors and churches, and the Chiles students (even the little ones) were plotting and planning,” added Williams.
Other partners located at The Chiles Academy who are helping to establish the vision of “a full-service community school” include Early Head Start, the Reign Academy, the Pyramid Community Café, Agape Midwifery, and Fruit-on-Deck.
For information about the festival, contact Camille Brown at 386-227-7393. The website for Earth Day is http://daytonabeachearthdayfestival.com.