Apopka Garden Grows Community Support

Gardening is good for Axel Hansen’s soul.

He casually whiles away his spare hours at the City of Apopka’s Billie Dean Community Garden. He maintains a couple of large planting boxes, where he works in the soil, plants seeds, pulls weeds and patiently nurtures his plants with loving care.

Hansen enjoys growing his own fruits and vegetables to eat and share. At times he takes some of his small harvests to the nearby Loaves & Fishes food pantry to help families in need.

That is the underlying philosophy of the garden – to connect people with gardening and to share the benefits of their labor.

“We do it because we like it, but we also like giving back to the community,” said Peter Jordan, an agriculture teacher at Ocoee High School who manages the garden through the non-profit charity The Big Potato Foundation.

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The roughly half-acre garden started in 2008 at the corner of South Park Avenue and East Ninth Street. Apopka City Commissioner Billie Dean, who visited a large garden at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, encouraged the city to provide a place for local residents who do not have enough land for gardening at home. “Many people in Apopka live in apartments or rental houses with no place to do this,” Dean explained.

Dean said some of the local gardeners also come from other parts of the country where agriculture and gardening is much more prominent: “This is a way for them to get back to their roots.”

The community garden has 74 planter boxes. Ten are shared by the overall community – the rest are rented individually for $20, which provides a four-by-sixteen-foot planting box for a year. All of the gardens are organic without pesticides and other chemicals.

Gardeners typically grow vegetables and fruits like carrots, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, corn or okra. Some grow herbs and spices while others choose flowers like vinca and marigolds.

For more information about the Billie Dean Community Garden, call (407) 205-8273.

The Big Potato Foundation provides charitable services throughout Apopka including food, clothing and services for the homeless and families in need. It also provides public art and music programs.

Members are restoring Apopka’s historic Seaboard Airline Railway Depot, and they assist with popular annual events like the Old Florida Outdoor Festival. The City of Apopka now is partnering with the Big Potato Foundation, providing proceeds from certain special events like the Old Florida Outdoor Festival to support the community programs.

City of Apopka
120 E. Main St.,
Apopka, Fla. 32703
C (407) 630-1961

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