Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Residents grow their own food in community gardens

Youth development worker Carol Benjamin shows young gardeners the progress of their tomatoes at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center.

Photo by Carly Hart

Youth development worker Carol Benjamin shows young gardeners the progress of their tomatoes at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center.


The benefits of community gardening abound for people of all ages and levels of experience.

Major factors for starting a garden include: a lower grocery bill, healthier food choices, beautifying the community, developing camaraderie with neighbors and educating the next generation.

But South Pasadena resident Mickey Heilweil keeps it all in perspective: "There's nothing like fresh food from the ground."

Heilweil has been growing his own produce for three years, but limited sunlight and space on his condo terrace proved to be problematic.

Two years ago, the health conscious, 82-year-old entrepreneur went to the Azalea Community Garden on 22nd Avenue N to expand his efforts. Today, he tends two plots (350 square feet) with 14 varieties of fruits and vegetables that include tomatoes, squash, peppers, and watermelon.

He spends two hours a day working his garden before going off to the gym. Since his garden yields more produce than he and his wife, Debbie, can consume, Heilweil has a nice barter arrangement with a small local restaurant for the excess of his harvest.

Recently, he ran into St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster at the Saturday Morning Market and suggested that the city should do more to publicize the community gardening program.

"There is wonderful camaraderie between gardeners," said Alexis Shuder, public information specialist for the city of St. Petersburg. "They can share crops and techniques. They are the essence of community."

The St. Petersburg Parks & Recreation Department has a Food for Life program at 12 of its recreation centers that offer summer camps for youth. The goal of the program is to get children (and their parents) to make healthier food choices through projects, games and events.

As part of the program, the children plant and manage grow boxes. "We received a $50,000 grant last year from the Wal-Mart corporation to continue and grow our efforts," said Shuder.

Elsewhere in south Pinellas, the Gulfport Community Garden on Preston Avenue S is beginning its third season and also is open to St. Petersburg residents.

"This has come together through hard work of many folks along with generous contributions of things like fencing, tree trimming, top soil donations and more," said Andrea Royce, primary coordinator of the garden and vice president of 49th Street South Business Association.

Gulfport resident Linda De- Zwaan says her dogs take up her back yard so she rents two plots (192 square feet) in the Gulfport Community Garden, across the street from her home.

DeZwaan, 68, spends about four hours a week tending 12 types of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, corn, eggplant, cucumbers and collard greens. She freezes some of the excess harvest and gives some away.

"Our gardeners tell us it is a peaceful spot for feeling less stressed and meeting other neighbors within Bartlett Park," said Andrea Hilde- bran, coordinator of Bartlett Park community garden. "We engage about 20 young children in gardening several days each week."

Residents grow their own food in community gardens 05/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 14, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]