The goal of the event was for persons interested in growing their own food to learn how to plant a fall garden at home. Workshop attendees had the chance to ask plenty of questions in a community garden setting. The Riverside Avondale Community Garden features rentable raised garden bed plots that are tended to by the lessees. The garden is located on the corner of Park Street and Azalea Terrace across from the Willowbranch Library in the Jacksonville community of Riverside.
Down to Earth Farm is owned and operated by Brian and Kristin Lapinski. They started the farm in late 2007 because they believe in the importance of vibrant, local, sustainably-grown agriculture and the knowledge that what we choose to eat, affects our health.
Their goal is to grow healthy, delicious veggies in a manner that is gentle on our planet. This means using compost and OMRI listed products instead of chemical fertilizers to feed their plants, using organic potting soil, and fighting bugs and disease with responsible techniques such as crop rotation and regular scouting. The don't employ the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides.
Down to Earth Farm grows a wide variety of vegetables that they sell through the Green Market in Neptune Beach or at the Riverside Arts Market seasonally. They also have a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the ease of a weekly share of fresh food and connection to your farmer.
Did you know? There are more microbes in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on Earth!
Growing your own food puts to use space you have available. Even in small spaces, you'd be surprised by how much you can grow with container gardens or raised garden beds. Alternatively, community gardens like the Riverside Avondale Community Garden and others like it, provide a space to grow if you don't have the room at your home.
Produce in supermarkets has a high carbon footprint because it is often grown on the other side of the country or even in another country and shipped to your local grocery. That's why growing your own food or supporting your local farmers is critical to being eco-conscious and lowering your carbon footprint. It also often tastes better and you can control exactly what's going into growing your food i.e. what goes into your food, goes into your body when you consume it.
Plus, you can attract beneficial pollinators to your yard which in turn gives them a food supply – symbiosis at its best! Involving children in the growing process is not only educational, but it often gets them to try new things and eat healthier as they try the foods they labored and nurtured to grow.
Feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start? Down to Earth Farm sells ready-made-garden trays with 36 starter plants.
Another local farmer who has done garden workshops for us in the past, Man in Overalls, sells Magic Mix – a proprietary compost-based soil mix you can purchase through him or at Cultivate. Man in Overalls can also construct custom raised garden beds with automatic micro irrigation that are "ready to plant."
Support local businesses! With the combination of Man in Overalls' raised garden beds and Magic Mix and Down to Earth Farm's starter plants, you'll be well on your way to growing your own organic foods – better for you and the Earth!
Lapinski recommends utilizing your local extension office for resources. Northeast Florida's UF/IFAS extension offers workshops, resources specific to the area, and advice from master gardeners.
Seaweed is available in liquid concentrate or powder form. When mixed with water and sprayed on plants, it delivers vitamins and minerals for healthier plants.
Thuricide is sometimes used by organic gardeners as for caterpillar and worm pest control. It's made from bacteria that is toxic to certain pests.