A notable event occurred in New Port Richey on Dec. 15. Already Pasco County's trendsetter in sustainability, resiliency and urban agriculture, the city reached another milestone — a major farm-to-table dinner gathering. The occasion was the Friends of the Gardens dinner organized by New Port Richey FarmNet.
Eight dishes were featured, all prepared by chefs at Rose's Bistro and all featuring produce harvested from gardens in New Port Richey. Dishes featured arugula, bok choy, collard greens, kale, sweet potatoes and assorted herbs.
Twenty-five people attended, including gardeners, marketers, business owners and supporters of the FarmNet Project, including Mayor Rob Marlow.
Produce harvested in New Port Richey was made possible by the city's urban agriculture ordinance.
The event was fun, nutritious and educational. It gave a taste of what the future will be. It also stands as witness that you do not need to leave New Port Richey to find cultural (and agricultural) amenities typical of forward-looking, progressive communities.
The food was locally grown using organic methods and no pesticides. The restaurant is locally owned. The growers all lived in or near New Port Richey. All costs and income were locally generated and distributed.
The food did not travel far. Neither did the diners. Neither did the money. It happened because of the city's foresight and because citizens responded to the opportunity to start gardens and grow their own food.
This is what sustainability looks like. This is what food sovereignty looks like. This is what a better city looks like.
Besides the health and economic benefits, local food production has a positive impact on the natural environment by eliminating materials for packaging and shipping food, creating healthy environments for pollinators (birds, bees and butterflies) and drastically reducing climate-changing carbon emissions caused by industrial farming.
It also promotes care and appreciation of the natural environment, as the gardeners and farmers develop an awareness of ecosystems, soils, the cycles of seasons, and how our actions as human beings can restore and replenish the earth.
The urban farmers and community gardeners of New Port Richey are leading the way to a better, more sustainable future for the city and its residents. They are showing everyone that there is a growing group of talented and committed growers capable of producing high quality, nutritious food in significant quantities, right here in densely populated west Pasco.
With the farm-to-table dinner of Dec. 15, those gardeners reminded everyone that you do not need to move away to find a better place to live — or eat.
Dell deChant is associate chair of the Department of Religious Studies at USF. He is chairman of the Environmental Committee of New Port Richey and a member of the Pasco County Food Policy Council and Florida Food Policy Council.