May 2019

MAY 2019 54 by Jan Engoren N ext to the train tracks on Dixie Highway, just east of the Boca Raton Public Library downtown, sits the Boca Raton Community Garden. Established on Earth Day 2010, the garden currently supports 97 plots on its 1.5 acres and is the largest community garden in the state. Sitting on land donated by the City of Boca Raton, the community garden is managed and maintained by the Junior League of Boca Raton, which leases plots to city residents on a yearly basis. A picture- perfect project for do-it-yourselfers, the garden also has attracted help and donations from sponsors ranging from architects and master gardeners to landscaping firms, tree services, and even Whole Foods. Cristy Stewart-Harfmann, Junior League Boca’s acting president, said the garden provides more than fruits and vegetables for local amateur growers and their families. “Our garden cultivates the spirit of community and enhances quality of life,” she said, noting the plentitude of organic vegetables, flowers, plants, and trees. Stewart-Harfmann said 10 percent of the fresh tomatoes, beans, herbs, kale, lettuce, and other produce are donated from growers to Boca Helping Hands’ hot meal program. “They go above and beyond the call of duty,” Boca Helping Hands’ operations director Bill Harper said of his organization’s longstanding relationship with JLBR. “We’re thankful for their efforts.” The efforts are cooked into the mission of the garden to help teach and support environmental sustainability. For the Junior League and all its partners and gardeners, sustainable gardening means using methods we used to take for granted — growing the perfect plants for our South Florida climate and gardening in a way that keeps the garden healthy and produces no waste. In addition to the individual plots, the garden has a wildflower section boasting native Florida wildflowers, such as Florida swamp privet, flowering dogwood, and trumpet creeper vines to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. The space also features two pineapple patches flanked by carambola (starfruit) trees. JLBR member Caryn Morris, 27, cultivates a plot that features a lemon tree, lettuce, and kale. She said she spends many Saturdays in her garden spot watering, pruning, and planting. Morris said for festivals and events, including Earth Day in April, it’s not unusual to see more than 250 people on the garden’s grounds. On a recent sunny weekday morning, Canadian visitor Wil Geskes stopped by to see what was being planted. An organic gardener himself, Geskes said he likes to see the creative use of space and the choices each gardener makes with their plot. Boca Raton resident Cainna Browning was parked nearby with her 4-year-old son, Charlie. The two watched the trains pass by as the boy ate his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Afterward, the two entered the garden to look for butterflies. Gardener Suzanne Brown, of Boca Raton, stopped by with members of her family, to check on her plot, where she grows tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and rosemary among other things. The tomatoes were ripe and Brown plucked several from the vine and placed them in a zip-lock bag. “I’ll make a nice tomato and mozzarella salad,” she said. For more information on the Boca Raton Community Garden, visit . P COMMUNITY Boca Community Garden turns