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At Winthrop Arts Festival, community garden and artist's new career in full bloom

RIVERVIEW — Brien and Katrina Hockman sat in their 12- by 12-foot booth last year at the Winthrop Arts Festival introducing the community to their life-inspired paintings and photography.

The couple met later in life and as a strengthening bond, Katrina urged her husband to chase his dream of painting at 51.

The couple formed a company called My Flying Onion. Brien, who hadn't seriously drawn or doodled in 35 years and works as a security manager for an insurance company, made the Winthrop Arts Festival his second show ever. The Hockmans plan to return for the sixth annual Winthrop Arts Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Founder's Park west of the pole barn.

While My Flying Onion will be among nearly 100 entries from as far away as Ohio and North Carolina displaying oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry and other art, Katrina will be pulling double duty. After meeting artist and festival director Bryant Martinez at last year's event, Katrina has sown the seeds of the Winthrop Town Centre's community garden, growing fruits and vegetables for the Emergency Care Help Organization's food pantry that serves Brandon area residents. She also will staff the table for the community garden, entertaining children, educating adults and sharing samples of her homemade salsa that includes peppers from the garden.

After convincing Martinez that she would succeed where a few others had failed, Katrina Hockman planted the first seeds in the garden last May. She puts in 20 to 25 hours a week, including long Saturdays, focusing on high-yielding crops that also are healthy like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, okra, lettuce and all kinds of beans.

Martinez earmarked about 3 acres at an old dairy farm, and she took it from there.

"He kept clearing land and we kept planting," said Katrina, 47, "and thus the garden was born."

A citrus area with lemon, lime and other trees lines the community garden along with pecans and blueberries. In keeping with the artistic theme at Winthrop, the garden also features painted tires that will serve as strawberry planters, various sculptures and painted concrete pads left over from the dairy farm.

When she's not busy with her career as a registered nurse, Katrina is overseeing 12 new plots going into the garden. Since only a quarter of an acre is now being harvested strictly for ECHO, she is helping others with sections of their own.

"It is an investment of time, but if we believe in something strong enough, it begins to taper back," she said. "What happens is, we are not sapping all of our energy because we are divvying up our time."

Katrina organized about three dozen volunteers in the 10 months since inception, including student groups from Hillsborough Community College, Rasmussen College, and Riverview and Blake high schools, as well as Cub Scouts and special-needs children. She also has figured out how to reuse seeds and incorporate the benefits of composted soil.

In addition to direct assistance for ECHO, this year's Winthrop Arts Festival will raise money to benefit Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and book scholarships for HCC students. Local musicians and those from schools will entertain, and Winthrop's own Sketch and Sip will sell some leftover instructor paintings.

"I like the fact that we are beginning to develop a space that is a destination of the arts," Martinez said.

At Winthrop Arts Festival, community garden and artist's new career in full bloom 03/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 3:21pm]
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