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Urban Farm Training Program Offers First Taste of Crops

Roscoe Jordan guided visitors on a tour of the Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub in Fort Myers. He led guests through the fields of the 5 1/4-acre urban farm off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Jordan comes from a family of gardeners and farmers. Now, he’s at the Hub every day, growing crops and putting that knowledge to use.

He said they recycle the seeds.

We regenerate them from the seeds we had the year before,” Jordan said. “These seeds that we’ve been growing with have been around now for 45 years.”

And the soil is compost.

All it is, is leaves, grass. It’s broken down, grounded,” he said.

But, Jordan has only been at the Food Hub since April. He’s among the first five people to participate in the Urban Farmers in Training program or UFIT. The guests came for “A Taste of the Garden” event, where trainees prepared recipes made with the crops they planted in April.

Yvonne Hill started the Hub in 2010. She said UFIT was designed to be a comprehensive program that trained participants in farming, cooking and business.

It’s a very intense training, but it’s also a very I should say expanding-their-horizons-type-of-training so there are different components,” Hill said. “We have guest speakers and trips and things like that.”

Jordan described the program as a crash course in learning how to plant summer vegetables.

The herb garden, we started off there. Planted herbs because they’re more easier to grow,” Jordan said. “And got into a little more complicated things like squash, collard greens, black eyed peas and so far it hasn’t failed us.”

After exploring the green rows of okra, black-eyed peas and a plant known as callaloo, Jordan took the group to the spice garden.

A large white tent was set up with tables in the garden. Each table had a small plastic container with vegetables inside. Underneath the containers were copies of the “Farmer’s Almanac.”

Then, the trainees brought wave after wave of meals; black beans and peas, vegetable gumbo, collard greens and vegetable kabobs.

Al Piotter is a teacher at Trafalgar Middle School.

He’s been coming to the Hub to learn about farming. He plans to start a garden with his students.  

“I asked them all about how they did their irrigation,” Piotter said.
“The planting the seeds; just how they did their operation.”

At “A Taste of the Garden,” Piotter saw what the farm can produce.

I always have a lot on my plate,” he said. “But this is ridiculous.”

After the ceremony, people milled around the garden and bought produce at the vegetable stand. Jordan said he was impressed even the most unknown of vegetables sold out.

A lot of people who didn’t know what callaloo was, they just came in and bought some callaloo,” Jordan said. “We really don’t have anymore.”

Jordan finishes the program at the beginning of July. He plans to continue farming at the Hub in addition to starting his own livestock and fish business. The Urban Farmers in Training Program’s next session begins at the end of July. Organizer Yvonne Hill says she plans to have anywhere between 15 to 20 trainees preparing fall crops.

Topher is a reporter at WGCU News.