By Brady Newbill | New Pelican Writer
Deerfield Beach – Nurturing and fertile ground may be difficult to imagine alongside the imposing commotion of Broward County’s I-95 corridor. But in recent years, a growing community at the Fruitful Field has been crafting a much-needed oasis in one of the area’s most notorious food deserts. “This was actually a parking lot before this project started here,” said Executive Director Jaime Castoro.
Casual visitors or passersby may easily miss the size and scope of the operation. At first it seems like a series of community garden beds and an outdoor kitchen are all there is in this cozy location tucked behind a small church. But a walk around the property reveals several acres of organic crops, a “food forest” of fruit trees, a shaded nursery, inviting areas for community programming, and a network of walking trails adorned with ferns and flowering plants.
The vegetables grown in the Fruitful Field’s vast rows of crops supply the inventory of its Community Supported Agriculture program, entirely supported by produce grown onsite. “We’re rare in the fact that we have this large inner-city space and we’re able to grow everything here rather than supplementing from other growers,” said Farm Manager Noah Siegel, who first started as a volunteer in 2018 while studying regenerative agriculture and non-profit management. Shares of the program start at $28 per week and include a bundle of fresh seasonal vegetables available for weekly pickup during the growing season – October through April.
For each share purchased, an equal amount of the harvest is donated to local food banks and community kitchens, including the adjacent Parkway United Methodist Church which specializes in homeless outreach. Vegetables offered in the program vary throughout the year depending on what is in season, offering neighbors a true farm-to-table experience in their own home.
Among the dedicated team tending the fields are members of the Grow City Youth program, an initiative started in 2016, which gives local high school students their first professional experience. “We teach them how to grow, how to harvest, how to seed, how to cook and it’s also a first-time job experience, so we help them with resume building and public speaking,” said Siegel. “We also invite local professionals to give presentations to the students about career paths in different sectors.” Funding and support for the program comes from local philanthropic organizations like the Community Foundation of Broward.
For those wanting to dig their own hands in the soil, a few dozen individual plots form an increasingly popular community garden section. Plots at the Deerfield location cost $40 per year, although space is limited even at this vast site. “Actually, someone from North Miami just drove up here to establish a plot because there were no closer plots available,” said Castoro. “There is definitely a demand for this and there’s definitely a lot of cities that have a lot of vacant city-owned properties that can support numerous community gardens. People want to grow food.”
The Fruitful Field also makes its bountiful harvest available to the general public at the popular Seasonal Saturday Market, hosted onsite monthly during the growing season. Stop by this Saturday, Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 pm. and bring home something fresh.
This is the second article in a series on urban farms. Other farms will be featured in future issues.
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