January 21, 2017, L-R (Ken Ward, Kim Leinbach, Tim Lancaster, Beth Bosserman Curts, Mike McMahon) Tampa Bay Farm2School joined with the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, the City of Temple Terrace and Greco Middle School to organize a ceremony to install a Hillsborough County Historic Marker commemorating the city's historic Temple orange grove. Many Temple Terrace residents learned for the first time that Greco Middle School was once a Temple Orange tree grove; in fact it was these same Temple Orange trees the city was named for. To honor this memory, six Temple Orange trees are planted at the school along the track fence. The marker explaining this history was sponsored by Ken Ward in honor of his father-in-law, Lester, "Mac" McClung, Tampa Bay Farm2School and by the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council.
How did Tampa Bay Farm 2 School get started?
The short answer to this question is: Tampa Bay Farm2School is an outgrowth of the most recent community garden initiative within the city. The City of Temple Terrace has had community gardens, school gardens and farmers markets throughout its history. But never an organization dedicated specifically to building school gardens and offering continued support.
Tampa Bay Farm2School
Elizabeth Leib completed her two year tenure as founding President of the Temple Terrace Community Gardens in the spring of 2013 after leading the successful build out of two large community gardens at Riverhills Park and Greco Middle School. Shortly thereafter she formed Tampa Bay Farm2School with the help of Beth Bosserman Curts, Grant Rimbey, Jennifer Webb, Alison Fernandez and Amanda Corsentino. Working in partnership with Greco Middle School Principal Alege, the young organization collaborated with the school on many projects for the purpose of connecting the garden, agriculture and culinary arts programs including the construction and installation of an outdoor classroom and several student gardens.
A notable achievement was the dedication of a Hillsborough County historic marker placed on Greco school property along Gillette Avenue in January of 2017 commemorating the agriculture history of Temple Terrace and drawing attention to the fact that the land Greco occupies was once an orange grove filled with Temple Orange trees. The marker explains how the city is named for this particular variety of tree. Six of these Temple Orange trees are now planted at Greco along the public track for the community to enjoy.
During his five years leading Greco, Mr. Alege encouraged teachers to coordinate their efforts so that students could have the experience of growing and preparing healthy food. Farm 2 School has built on the success of the community gardens by supporting Greco's agriculture and culinary arts programs. In partnership with United Way Suncoast volunteers, the group set up an herb garden outside the culinary arts classroom so that Greco Middle School culinary students have access to fresh herbs for classroom cooking. And on the weekends TTF2S volunteers feed the animals cared for by agriculture students during the school week.
In fall of 2017 TTF2S partnered with the Patel College of Global Sustainability to create a student internship, enabling TTF2S to expand its services beyond Temple Terrace to schools in Plant City and New Tampa. Community and USF volunteers, led by TTF2S board members Amanda Corsentino, Melissa Miller Clemmer, Arnel Garcesa, Adrian Gonzalez and Elizabeth Leib have participated in many school garden projects. During the 2017/18 school year, TTF2S partnered with the US Green Building Council to organize the building of a beautiful native garden at Cork Elementary in Plant City for use by young students as a place to practice new reading skills.
In spring of 2017, TBF2S board members met with teachers and administration at Cork Elementary to begin planning a garden for young students learning to read. The goal was to create a a tranquil, beautiful space for kids to sit outdoors and practice their reading skills. The Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the US Green Building Council signed on as a partner with TTF2S and designated the reading garden project a "Green Apple Day of Service." USGBC recruited business sponsors who provided funds for garden materials. After six months of planning, on November 4, 2017, volunteers with the Environmental Club of USF, Patel College of Global Sustainability, Dragonfly Landscaping, Southern Irrigators and the US Green Building Council worked together to build the beautiful new garden. Plans are now in the works to collaborate with teachers at Turner-Bartels K-8 STEM Academy for another Green Apple Day of Service to build a school garden.
Temple Terrace Community Gardens
In the summer of 2011, city councilman Rimbey and Elizabeth Leib connected on a garden blog about the growth of community gardens in the Tampa Bay area and tossed around the idea of starting one in Temple Terrace. With Rimby's encouragement and the support of the TT Preservation Society, Leib started calling leaders in the community to gauge interest in having such a garden. Temple Terrace city councilperson Alison Fernandez offered to help with suggestions about city leaders to call and what locations might be available.
In January of 2012 the city council led by Mayor Affronti voted to designate an area within Riverhills Park for a community garden. At the city council meeting when the request for garden space was considered, the Mayor got a chuckle from the audience when he commented that the idea reminded him of the "victory gardens" of his youth. Fernandez noted that she "doesn't eat vegetables" but endorsed having a community garden as great for the city. The city manager at the time, Kim Leinbach, assisted the community garden group by arranging to have underground pipes from the selected site connected to a city water line. Once the line was connected, city staff helped the group set up a water meter. Membership dues collected from gardeners are used to pay this monthly bill.
Mike Pont, a retired Verizon engineer, drew the plans for the irrigation system for the first community garden in Riverhills Park. He also built the lovely sign that continues to serve the Riverhills community garden group. Thanks to Pont's skills and large arsenal of tools along with efforts by the newly formed volunteer board much was accomplished in a short time. The young group established bylaws and membership guidelines, set up officer roles and tenure limits and took on formal roles. Leib continued her lead role as President, Pont offered to act as Treasurer, Travis Malloy became Secretary and Steve McBride took the position of Vice-President and Jennifer Marshall, Membership. Leib reached out to potential donors, established an Advisory Board, promoted the new garden with local media, and created a website. Busch Gardens agreed to offer a regular donation of rich composted soil. Volunteer board members assisted new gardeners with building garden frames, fencing and building the irrigation system designed by Pont. Rimbey provided the architectural drawing and advice on building the infrastructure of a new community group. After the group presented to the city council the plan for the garden and was granted approval, Cheri Donohue joined and began lending her support.
A grand opening for the new community garden at Riverhills Park was held with the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce in October of 2012. The Temple Terrace Preservation Society nurtured the young organization with financial and banking assistance. Graphic designer extraordinaire Tim Lancaster donated the design for the community garden logo and the TT Farm2School logo. And the group received guidance in setting up a community garden from Kitty Wallace of Tampa Heights Community Garden and Robin Milcowitz of Seminole Heights Community Garden.
In the spring of 2012, Greco school principal Yinka Alege invited the group to set up a second community garden in the back schoolyard adjacent to the running track on the south side of the school. The Hillsborough County School District was willing to loan the land and supply irrigation for a garden to be used by area residents in the interest in forging a stronger bond between Greco and the Temple Terrace community. The Greco Gardens opened with the first big workday in January of 2013. Once again, Pont designed and led volunteers in the installation of the irrigation system. He led volunteers with the building of a shed purchased with funds donated by local residents. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.