Largo's Old Northwest group plans organic community garden

With the historic Jason Perkins House in Largo relocated, nearby residents are turning the site into an organic community garden.

Special to the Times

With the historic Jason Perkins House in Largo relocated, nearby residents are turning the site into an organic community garden.

Joseph Stefko and Diana Reichert started the Old Northwest movement in Largo about a year ago because they were tired of hearing the word "Larghetto."

They coined the name, created a sign, designed the flag, bought the domain name and started going door-to-door promoting the Old Northwest as a historic neighborhood in need of commercial presence and preservation.

They attended commission meetings, advisory board meetings and citizens' academy meetings. And now they're getting their hands dirty in an organic community garden.

"(We believed) one person at a time, we could create a place to live, work and play, and be happy," Stefko said. "A grass roots movement."

Grass roots, indeed. Soon, more than 40 people will be stomping over donated topsoil on the corner of West Bay Drive and Fifth Street to cultivate organic, Florida-native plants for only $40 a month for a single plot, or $30 for two. That money, paid directly to the city of Largo, pays for the garden's irrigation, which the city has offered to install for free.

"At first, it was going to be one spigot," Reichert said. "Now, they're putting in one spigot for every two plots, and that's incredible. That came out of nowhere."

The idea for the garden came about after the city decided to move the historic Jason Perkins House, used for months as a training house for the Largo Fire Department, to a nearby lot for rehabilitation and private sale.

"Well, since they moved it, now it's just an empty lot," Stef­ko said. "And I said, 'Well, as long as it's sitting empty, why not use it?' "

The city now owns the block where the Perkins house once stood and is looking to sell it to a commercial buyer. But Stefko isn't worried. The group can move if it needs to.

For now, members of the group are mostly concerned with what to plant.

"I love tomato plants, I love cucumber plants. I just like to grow things. I love flowers," said Debbie Seimetz, a northern transplant who recently moved to Largo from St. Pete Beach.

She is thinking of starting a similar group at her church and getting children involved.

Kerry Ann Lewis, another local gardener, is excited about learning how to garden organically.

"I've never been educated enough to do 100 percent organic," she said. "I've started seeds organically, but I don't know all the ins and outs, and every single thing that I need to know, so I want to learn more."

Robert Segundo, a certified permaculture designer, has offered to lead the group. Permaculture is a way of designing one's garden so that it imitates the balances found in natural ecologies.

The group is still soliciting donations for mulch and topsoil, and is waiting on approval to install a fence, but Stefko is confident that everything will align to bring Largo a much-needed cultural hub.

"This is not going to be just a garden," he said. "It's going to be a meeting place."

. Fast facts

Old Northwest Community Garden

To get involved with Largo's community garden, see discoverlargo.com.

Largo's Old Northwest group plans organic community garden 02/18/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2010 4:46pm]

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