Community Gardens Take Root in North Miami

Alice Billman wants residents in North Miami to watch their gardens grow -- even if they live in an apartment.

Billman's organization Heroes Unite created a community garden in Griffing Park where locals can plant fruits and vegetables based on what's in season.

"We need to make our city more sustainable and more progressive, and provide an environment of wellness for our residents," Billman said. "Right now if you want wholesome organic fresh food, you better be making a good salary. People who are lower income should have the same access to wholesome food."
Through the organization's Giving Back Green program, 17 small plots of land were created in the area of the park called Enchanted Forest. It's there where residents can plant vegetables -- up to 20 -- four times a year. All they have to do is buy the seeds, commit to watching over the produce and donate 10 percent of what they grow to a green market that's planned for the park.

Even people lacking the know-how or a green thumb are encouraged to sign up for the free project. The community gardeners will work with students and professors from FIU to maintain the garden. They can also sit in on free gardening lectures and even some cooking classes.

Some of the plots are reserved for area schools, allowing students to test their skills and learn about Mother Earth as part of their studies. They might even be able to incorporate the foods they grow into their meals during the school day.

"This project is multifaceted. It's not just about growing vegetables," Billman said.

The Heroes Unite garden is the second such project in South Florida. Roots in the City, another nonprofit, has several community gardens in Overtown, a neighborhood just north of downtown Miami. The organization relies on volunteers from area businesses and a group of inner city residents in the Roots Landscape and Horticultural Training Institute to help its gardens grow.

"What we are doing here is creating jobs for the inner city,'' said Tony Ellis, Miami marketing vice president for Coca-Cola, in an interview with the Miami Herald. "As well as creating jobs, it's a function of our corporate responsibility.''
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