Derbyshire community garden a hit for residents who want to eat healthier.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Andre James has been practicing a vegetarian and vegan diet for five years now. Lately, he has been picking up his fresh vegetables from a community garden owned and operated by Derbyshire Place, a faith-based nonprofit on Derbyshire Road.
“I think this garden is making a positive impact on the community. It teaches agriculture. It’s good to grow your own food. It’s healthy,” he told the Daytona Times. Plots at the garden, just north of Derbyshire Place, are rented to residents who live in the area.
“This is something that we should pass on to the next generation. It’s difficult eating healthy. It’s quite expensive. Most produce in the stores aren’t fresh at all. Even the trucks on the side of the road don’t have fresh and organic stuff,’’ James said.
Greens, peas and more
The community garden has been hailed a success with all of its available plots filled on the day of its grand opening last month.
The garden has 36 plots growing a variety of items such as tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, eggplants, greens, lettuce and herbs.
The garden is located in what’s designated as a food desert by the Florida Department of Health, where families don’t have quick access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s also located in an area where 90 percent of children are on free or reduced lunch.
However, the area is not deemed as “poverty-stricken’’ or an area for all low-income residents.
Although the area has its challenges, there are other areas with more poverty and where a food dessert exists.
“We’re grateful for any kind of press that can shine the light on the needs in the community. Many terms used such as ‘poverty-stricken’ and ‘low-income, ‘I wouldn’t use,” said the Rev. Miquel Rodriquez, executive director of Derbyshire Place.
“We do live in a community that is underserved where many people don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. There are no Publix, Winn-Dixie and farmers’ markets nearby,” noted Rodriguez.
The church’s endeavor has been well received.
“There is a huge need to get fresh fruits and vegetables in our community. It’s definitely community-led. We asked the community about a garden. They wanted it and they are supporting it,’’ Rodiquez noted.
“They helped build it and they’re working it. They have come out on work days,’’ he noted.
$25 per year
Lots are $25 for an entire year, which covers two growing seasons. People can purchase lots as low as $10 for one growing season.
Rodriguez expressed, “We thought of making it free. We do give some plots to families who can’t afford it. Still, we’d rather give people the pride in paying for what they build and create instead of giving it away. It’s still quite affordable.”
All races, backgrounds
The community garden is a multicultural effort.
“We hope to make a positive impact on the community. We want people here. There are people here of all races, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds using the garden and teaching others. This is something everyone can do and benefit from,” commented Russ Royce with the Master Gardeners Extension Services.
Royce is the master gardener who oversees and teaches at the site.
There is a hydro-garden section that has no soil and no insects. Some produce such as lettuce in this section has grown as quickly as 10 days.
The garden is also self-irrigated with its own water system underground.
“We grow everything naturally. We use no chemicals or insecticides in the entire garden. Community gardens are great but many fall by the wayside,” Royce noted. “It takes work to upkeep them. We want the community to continue to care for and work this garden.”
Fruit or meat?
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be quite expensive in health food stores and supermarkets. The garden is designed to help residents with this problem.
Rodriquez explained that residents often have to make a choice of buying strawberries for $5 or buying a pack of drumsticks and ramen noodles, which may not be healthy.
Other community gardens could be on the way in Daytona. There are other community gardens in neighboring cities, including New Smyrna Beach and there are two in Ormond Beach.
Rodriguez said, “We plan to expand ours in the near future. We hope this becomes a model for others. I’ll be meeting with other community leaders to bring more such gardens.”
‘A great benefit’
Joni Joiner is a foster mom who is also using the garden.
“It’s very nice. It’s accessible. It’s a great benefit to the community. I try to eat healthy, but I can do better. Hopefully the garden helps. Healthy food can be costly. This garden gives us more control of what we eat and we know where our food comes from,’’ she related.
Julannda Zachary is using the garden and even helping to care for it.
She said, “I do a lot of community work in Midtown and other areas of the city. When this opportunity came up, I got involved.
“We need to address the health in the community and people’s well-being. A community garden helps people with self-sufficiency and self-sustainability,’’ she added.
For more information about Derbyshire Place, call 386-9477708 or visit www.derbyshireplace.org.