DUNEDIN — Life would be sweet if eating wings, sipping cold beer and buying raffle tickets on a hot afternoon could make a garden grow. And this Sunday it can, as the Grillin' for the Garden Fundraiser collects money to expand the Dunedin Community Garden.
"We invite anyone interested in supporting a local effort to grow fresh, organic vegetables in northern Pinellas County to come to the event," said Jim McGinity, president of the Dunedin Community Garden Association.
The Dunedin Smokehouse will host the fundraiser, featuring chef specials and a beer created for the event by Dunedin's Seventh Sun Brewery, which had its grand opening in January.
"We just returned from picking the herbs fresh from the garden," said Seventh Sun Brewery co-owner Devon Kreps. "We're taking Thai basil and are going to infuse that into our Saison in Paradise beer. It's a French style of saison. We use grains of Paradise, a beer spice, which gives a bit of a peppery finish. We tested the flavors of the basil and it complements the beer quite nicely."
Seventh Sun will donate a 5.2-gallon keg, which equals about 60 12-ounce pours.
Kreps cites several reasons for the brewery to support the Dunedin Community Garden — first, because fresh ingredients are important to how Seventh Sun brews its beer, and also because Kreps and co-owner Justin Stange have friends who are active in the garden project. Kreps and Stange also want to support the community.
"We're happy to be a part of the town of Dunedin," Kreps said. "Happy to give back because it has given so much to us."
And the community garden is glad to have the support of local businesses.
"The Dunedin Community Garden is excited to work with another small organization like Seventh Sun Brewery on our fundraiser," McGinity said. "It is an example of how businesses and organizations work together to build community in Dunedin: organically and with fresh, organic ingredients."
According to Jerrod Simpson, a community garden board member, the fundraiser is the culmination of a lot of giving. The Dunedin Smokehouse will donate half the proceeds of the special Seventh Sun beer, $1 from every Dunedin Brewery beer plus $1 for each chef's special sold, besides donating $150 for music. Musicians, too, will donate their time.
Raffle tickets are on sale now and people do not have to be present to win the prizes, which will be raffled off every half-hour from 2 until 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Local businesses donated more than $1,000 in prizes, ranging from gift certificates from Wilcox Nursery and the Broadway Deli and Cafe to a three-day, two-night stay at the Tradewinds Island Grand Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach.
"The community garden is focused on bringing people together through growing food, because locally grown food tastes better, it is better for you, and it makes less of an impact on the environment than industrial farming," Simpson said. "It's a win-win all around and it's fun."
Presently, that food is grown in 21 beds and one that is handicapped-accessible. Each plot costs approximately $150 to build. The plan is to build at least another nine, maybe 15, if enough money is raised.
Simpson has learned much through his experience with the garden, from how to grow squash and tomatoes to the politics and frustrations of group dynamics in an openly democratic, grass roots organization. He says he sees great potential with the organization and that Dunedin is the perfect place because its residents strongly believe in supporting each other.
"Grillin' for the Garden is the primary means by which we will generate funds for the garden," said McGinity. ". . . With its success, we will be able to add more plots to the garden."
Theodora Aggeles can be reached at [email protected]