To get the community more involved in agriculture and gardening, the city of St. Cloud, Florida, Parks and Recreation Department, started a program in the fall of 2010 with its first garden planted behind city hall. Soon, there were two more gardens — one in Peg Horn Nature Park and the other in Hopkins Park. These gardens have led to programs, such as the homestead picnic and a garden party, which foster community and bring together hundreds of city residents. According to Jacqueline Dombrovy, the St. Cloud Parks and Recreation naturalist who is responsible for the initiative’s great success, the Urban Agriculture Program has done a lot of good for the community: “The city was dealing with a house that had been involved in criminal activity…58 police calls in one year. The house was purchased by the city, which at the time decided to demolish the home and do something with it. A parking garage was the first thought and a community garden was the second, and the community garden won. Before construction was even finished, there was a waiting list for the community garden.”
One of the Urban Agriculture Program’s latest projects is a Tower Garden that was installed in city hall by the department. The pre-built Tower Garden is from a company called Juice Plus and was designed by a man who previously worked for Disney in its Epcot theme park, in the “Future World” pavilion called The Land. This is where Disney hosts its agriculture program. The Tower Garden is an aeroponics system that uses an air and water environment, instead of soil, to grow vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs. The structure is a tall tube in which the plants’ roots rest in small cups located within the tube, with the plant growing on the outside. Every 15 minutes, nutrient-rich water is released, keeping the plants well fed without the use of soil. This system allows for plants to be grown indoors, keeping them safe from insects and disease, as well as for allowing them to be grown at any time during the year. Dombrovy added that the city plans on constructing even more Tower Gardens. “Hopefully the program continues to spread and gets the community involved,” she said. Click here for more information about the Urban Agriculture Program.
— Nicolas Amselle, Editorial Contributor to Parks & Recreation magazine