Last month, an event of some importance occurred in New Port Richey, but passed with little or no notice by the public. A suitable context for this event is given by Anna Pavord, in her essay, Value Added.
"The point of my garden is to increase the value of my life. My garden locks me into the slow, inevitable rolling out of the seasons, cycles of growth and decay, the lengthening of days and the shortening of shadows — a world that cities make us forget."
In New Port Richey, we have not forgotten these matters of seasons and cycles, and growth and shortening shadows. And this is the context of the event of Aug. 20, and a memorable moment in the creation and re-creation of an ecologically balanced and culturally dynamic community.
The city and its citizens celebrated the official opening of the New Port Richey Library seed exchange and the city's community gardens initiative.
There should be more. Perhaps the county library system will initiate a seed project, too. In the meantime, or at the same time, make use of our wonderful resource — one of a kind in this area. Check out the seeds, nurture the plants they produce, harvest their fruit and save the seeds, then share them back with the exchange.
New Port Richey does not need to be the only municipality committed to community gardens, nor will it be for long. Already there is work being done in Dade City and Zephyrhills.
New Port Richey is a municipality firmly committed and seriously engaged in generating community gardens — gardens authorized by a formal land use ordinance. Like the seed exchange, the gardens project is not just about growing food and flowers. It is about growing communities, vitalizing neighborhoods, bringing folks together, creating economic opportunities, joining young and old, facilitating education outside the classroom, making the world of nature a classroom in itself, bringing down barriers between folks often separated by artificial differences.
Community gardens promote health and vitality, reduce crime, create a sense of care and belonging, lower food budgets, encourage self-reliance, preserve green space and beautify neighborhoods.
So, if you have a vacant lot in the city, you now have an opportunity to transform it into a community garden. Application forms are available online and at City Hall. A potential eyesore can become an appealing oasis of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Rather than a patch of grass to mow and maintain, folks who use the property for gardens will work to maintain it and nurture it. Your property can become a neighborhood treasure.
Dell deChant is chairman of the Environmental Committee of the city of New Port Richey.