Growing a stronger community: Two new community gardens taking root in Destin

Savannah Chastain
Doug Carter uses a Bobcat donated by Coastal Equipment Rental, during a workday at Main Street Community Garden.

As winter turns to spring, green thumbs all over the country are getting ready to get their hands dirty and plant new crops. Here in Destin, two new community gardens have sprouted up on Main Street, and both are ready for volunteers.

EmeraldCoast GardenProject

Behind the Destin Water Users facility on Main Street, a non-profit garden project is bursting through the soil.

"In the beginning of February, Destin Water Users opened up and donated space for us," said Tara Wixom, secretary for the Emerald Coast Garden Project. "Since then we've really gotten our feet to the ground to get plants, materials for raised beds, a pump and an irrigation system."

Wixom explained that so far local companies have been instrumental in donating supplies and time, and now the garden has its first crop, potatoes, in the soil.

She shared that during the garden's initial year, produce will be sold at a farmers' markets, and all proceeds and excess crop will go to local food banks and charities.

"We're going to make it a true community effort," Wixom said, adding "if people are out there working and want to take some tomatoes or carrots home we are more than happy to let them do that."

The project has had a wealth of response from the community already.

"We've got a list of 90 individuals on our list right now, everyone from professional gardeners to those brand new at gardening."

The Emerald Coast Garden Project also has plans to share their knowledge with children by way of a summer educational program at the Destin Community center in June. Nick Coleman, with the city of Destin, is working with project president Amy Holt.

"He has asked us to come in and teach the summer camps and help kids grow a community garden," said Holt.

Holt explained that children’s' garden will be on Community Center property so that the kids can see their progress, and they will also receive seedlings to take home with them.

Wixom said that she is happy to see the interest in community gardens and loves the drive for both garden developments on Main Street.

"We want to plant gardens and grow community; come together, and have a good time," she said. "We want to focus on being healthy, environmentally focused and getting involved in the community."

WANNA GO?

Currently the Emerald Coast Garden Project is accepting soil and compost donations. To find out more visit their website at www.emeraldcoastgardenproject.org

Main StreetCommunity garden

A brand new initiative, the Main Street Community Garden, has just begun breaking ground behind the Destin American Legion. 

"We are in the building phase at this point," said project coordinator Ron Sandstead. "A lot depends on getting the right equipment to level the ground. Once that’s done it’s a green light." 

Two work days of root breaking have already gone into the project, as a thick root system lies beneath the future garden plot.

"We're trying to not just get rid of the weed, but also level the ground so we can build our raised beds, drill a well, and put in an irrigation system," Sandstead explained.

Several volunteers and companies have already donated their time and resources to the garden project as Sandstead mentioned Coastal Equipment donated Bobcats for a day of root drilling, and Taylor Ward of Sandman, donated a tractor for the day to move the root masses and smooth the ground.

"It's pretty selfless for them to volunteer to help build the garden for other people," Sandstead said, noting that most of the volunteers solely give their time for the community and are not planning to be gardeners themselves.

Sandstead told The Log that it's too early to spell out the details of how the garden will run, and when it will be ready to plant.

"I'm only one of many," he said, adding, “the ones that succeed are the ones built from the bottom up, where the community get together and decides how they want the garden to run."

The garden project was launched by business owners and citizens under the Main Street Betterment Alliance, and the group welcomes the community to come and join them.

"The intent of the garden is to give people the opportunity to grow food for themselves," said Sandstead. "As well as provide gardeners a place to gather."

WANNA GO?

The Main Street Community Garden is currently in need of volunteers and equipment donations.

If interested call Ron Sandstead 850-974-9016 or visit their website www.facebook.com/mainstreetcommunitygarden