Plans for a community garden are beginning in FishHawk Ranch.
Residents are meeting to discuss the idea at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday at Park Square Cellar, 16132 Churchview Drive.
"I'm so pleased that the idea has generated a lot of interest," said Mags Oldman who started the FishHawk Community Garden group on Facebook. "It's certainly not a new concept, and it seems like a very natural fit for a community like FishHawk Ranch, which is really like a garden in itself; so many families transplanted from all over the country, setting down roots to build a strong and healthy community. So to me, it just makes sense."
The garden will be open to novice and expert gardeners and supply produce for the area, all through volunteer labor, organizers hope.
Oldman first encountered community gardens in Seattle. She moved to FishHawk 10 years ago.
"While I never was a participant on the tilling and growing side, I certainly benefitted as a visiting citizen, enjoying the various gardens as anyone would a civic garden," Oldman said. "To me, they not only served the purpose of providing a hobby space and product to those that actually tilled the earth, but they serve as a living, breathing, work of art, an enhancement on many levels to any community."
While there have been no shortage of ideas for a location and funding for the garden, organizers now want to sift through those suggestions and explore possible site plots at the group's first meeting.
"I've been interested in doing something like this for a while," said Kerri Filippone McDougald, who was involved in Tampa's Sweetwater co-op community garden.
"I think it's an opportunity to bring people together, build community, provide fresh produce but there are lots of other ideas out there for the garden," added Filippone McDougald who helped organize the meeting.
Finding a plot in FishHawk may be a challenge because of the community's rules and zoning, said Filippone McDougald, a member of the Community Development District 1 board for the last decade.
"We may have to look off-site," she explained. "Some church property may be available but it's something we will discuss at the meeting. We have a lot of energy and interest."
The group has already taken some pointers from similar gardens in Seminole Heights and at the University of South Florida. They are also exploring inviting local Scouts and youth agriculture groups to be part of the project.
"We could even work with the FishHawk Farmer's Market that meets every month," Filippone McDougald said. "I want this to be a community and a FishHawk group idea. Fresh, organic local produce, camaraderie, having something that local kids could do together and feeding the homeless, there are just so many positive things that can come out of this."
Now a parent, Oldman also sees the garden as an opportunity for education.
"Sure, I could build a garden in my back yard and teach my kids about the value of raising produce from seed, the ecology, and the actual science of agriculture, but to do it in a community garden brings with it another level of education."
Creating and maintaining a productive garden also takes more than helping hands, Oldman believes.
"It requires a spectrum of social interaction — from the concept of simply sharing space, to the more complex ideas of horticultural compatibility to promote healthy green space for all involved."
For more information on the community garden, call (813) 409-1153.
Kevin Brady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.