TAMPA — To people packed into urban apartment and condo complexes or tightly bunched suburban houses, a community garden can offer a moment of quiet contentment and the makings of a healthy snack. But to Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, it offers much more.
For her, urban gardens symbolize the foundation of the type of green-based local economy that can bring communities together and help pull the nation's economy out of the dumps.
Community gardens take many forms, but often have a number of plots open to neighbors at low cost. The plots are rented and cared for by individuals in the community. They are a way for neighborhoods to produce their own food, cutting down on transportation cost and pesticides and offering an easy means of quality control.
About 100 local students, community organizers and neighbors gathered Saturday to learn about the community garden movement at Sweetwater Organic Farm in Tampa.
Robin Milcowitz of Seminole Heights was among them. She helps lead a group pushing for a community garden in her neighborhood.
Milcowitz has been consulting with Andrea Hildebran of Green Florida, who started St. Petersburg's Bartlett Park Garden in 2007.
Hildebran, a longtime community organizer, said she finds gardening relaxing and constructive, so she began an organization to help create a network of community gardens. "We think every neighborhood needs a community garden," she said.
The time is ripe for community gardens, Mulhern said.
"In really dire times we're in right now, I have something good to say: It looks good for green. It looks good for local initiatives," Mulhern said.
Joshua Neiderer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.