Update from Lynne Paradise, COC Chair and Arlington Community Garden Project Manager, former Green Sanctuary Chair at UUCJ

“In October of 2009 the Green Sanctuary Committee of Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville (UUCJ) applied for a grant to build an organic vegetable garden for the Arlington Community at Tree Hill Nature Center. The application stated that UUCJ would build the garden, manage it with volunteers from the church, and offer both educational classes and fun community events in order to educate the community about the environmental importance of local/organic foods, teach interested individuals how to garden, and enhance the spirit of community in Arlington.

Tree Hill agreed to partner with us on this project offering the use of their land, water, and expertise.  Members of both Boards (UUCJ and Tree Hill) signed off on the project, and in March of 2010 we were told that we were being awarded a grant of $18,886 to achieve our goals. Everything, however, had to be completed in 6 months.

UUCJ rose to the challenge and everyone hit the deck running. Volunteers were recruited to manage the garden (“Garden Organizers”), to manage the grant and act as the garden Board (Garden Steering Committee), and a team of community advisors consisting of organizers of successfully operating community gardens and a landscape architect were tapped. Meetings took place at least weekly, often twice a week. By August of 2010 the garden was built and ready for business. A Grand Opening was held for the community that included several local dignitaries and reporters from The Times Union. At the ceremony the garden received an award of excellence from Slow Foods, an organization that educates the public about the importance of local foods and healthy eating.

After much hard work by all, Arlington Community Garden was finally a reality!

The garden has now been in operation for 6 months and 50% of the plots are currently in use. Two of the plots are being used by area non-profits as therapy for their patients, and 7 plots are being managed by volunteers to grow food for the food bank at Arlington Community Services who currently supplies only canned goods to their clients. This past January 37 bags of vegetables, including more than 10 lbs of lettuce, 3 lbs of broccoli and 2 lbs of collard greens, were harvested and donated to the center.

In addition to managing the garden and growing food for the food bank, we are involved in several activities. Jacksonville University botany students are growing heirloom seedlings from seeds and will donate the seedlings to the garden in March. Slow Foods of St. Augustine has invited the garden to be part of a “Tour de Local Farms & Gardens” on April 10th. We will also be listed in a national “Eat Well” directory.  A Garden/Tree Hill outing is being planned for a Saturday in March for those who missed the last one, another movie night is in the works, and a “Stone Soup” get-together at Tree Hill is set for May 14. Gardening classes taught by Master Gardeners will be offered throughout the year so watch for announcements.”

UUCJ was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on July 22, 2009.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website

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Comments

  1. Jackie

    This is GREAT! We need more activities like this in Jacksonville.

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