Pine Manor Community Garden harvests $1,000 grant for bringing change to the community
Early on a Thursday morning in May, before the Florida heat had a chance to sink in, volunteers and garden coordinators are hard at work in the Pine Manor Community Garden and Food Forest.
Though at first glance it doesn’t look like it, these volunteers are still grappling with the effects of Hurricane Ian. But now, with a $1,000 grant from Gardening Know How, an online gardening publication, they have more resources to do so.
The award won by Pine Manor was no beauty pageant.
As the winners of the 2022 Sponsorship Program, the Pine Manor Community Garden was selected for its social impact on the neighborhood surrounding it.
According to the Pine Manor Community Garden Chair Robin Gretz, the legacy of the garden is not what’s been grown, but the effect it’s had on the community.
“When we first started planting, Pine Manor had the nickname ‘Crime Manor’,” Gretz said. “Since we started the garden in 2014, the crime rate has actually gone down 43%. We attribute it to the residents now taking pride in the area.”
The garden functions on volunteer labor, with residents of the neighborhood able to harvest fresh food if they work an hour in the garden. Garden boxes and in-ground plots contain everything from yuca, native to South America, to okra, which is popular in West African cuisine.
The garden isn’t the only thing that the Center has to offer. On the same property is a food pantry, United Way house, and kitchen, where residents can take classes that provide culinary training for the workplace.
One of the most more recent additions to the community Center is the Pine Manor Food Forest, which FGCU alumnus Arlo Simonds founded in 2016.
Beyond providing food to residents, Simonds says being involved with the project has helped him as well.
“I was definitely humbled a little bit when I started interacting with Jeanette and the community members. I was like, this actually has a meaning. This is a little bit deeper than just about the plants and growing food and stuff,” Simonds said. “There's a huge connection to it that I wasn't prepared for, that I didn’t anticipate. But it's beautiful that it happened.”
The resident mentioned, Jeanette Williams, has been volunteering in the garden since 2015, and says that the garden has given her a sense of direction.
“Before working in the garden, I’m staying at home not doing anything, you know, I’m just sitting there. But when I come here, I’ve got something to do. You know, I just love it.”
With the grant money, the garden aims to add trees to the Food Forest and replace their irrigation system.
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