Green dreams

Posted by Linda Saul-Sena on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Dr. Kip Curtis. - LINDA SAUL-SENA
  • Linda Saul-Sena
  • Dr. Kip Curtis.

Finally, our community is making the critical connections between kids, gardens, health, jobs and green spaces. The Edible Peace Patch Project in St Pete has come up with a brilliant template for tying these issues together. Their motto summarizes their strategy:
“Build Gardens. Feed Bodies. Expand Minds. Grow Community.”

The project was the brainchild of Dr. Kip Curtis, an Eckerd College professor who moved here in 2006 to teach environmental studies and sustainability. Kip noted the area’s low graduation rates and large “food deserts,” parts of town where fresh fruits and vegetables are tough to come by. He felt that these factors, byproducts of poverty and racism, combined to produce poor diets and limited opportunities.

Fortunately, Curtis was born on a farm and knew how to grow plants. In 2009, he launched the first Edible Peace Patch Project as an experiment in urban, sustainable farming at Lakewood Elementary School. Curtis’s college students came to the school and mentored the students, and at year’s end over 200 parents attended a harvest festival themed “Learning Well, Eating Well.”

Curtis explained that schoolyard gardens “primed the pump by creating a demand for good food.” When children grew the squash, lettuce or radishes themselves, they were much more open to eating them enthusiastically. The Edible Peace Patch website shows elementary students brimming with enthusiasm about their farming successes, raising over 50 different crops.

Seven schools, all serving needy children in South St. Pete, have benefited from gardens in the last several years. Community partners ranging from the Rays to the Jaycees have helped the gardens get off the ground. Fairmont Elementary boasts a garden in the shape of a peace sign. “We should have this program in every school,” enthused Saturday Morning Market Director Gail Eggeman.

New farming techniques have been used to produce even better results. Sanderlin Elementary created a raised bed garden filled with debris and fish remains to create compost. The John Hopkins Middle School effort tried deep trench compost to enrich the sandy soil. The students receive a science eduation without knowing it, and their test scores reflect this new knowlege.

The stated mission of the Edible Peace Patch is to eliminate poverty as a factor in educational success and diet-related health issues. The interconnection of these two lofty goals is central to the project’s success, but so is leadership. An acclaimed community activist just took the reins of the group this April.

Sandra Gadsden is uniquely qualified to serve as Peace Patch executive director, having developed a vast network of friends from her 10 years as an editor for the Tampa Bay Times. She brings a variety of collaborators to the table: donors, artists, journalists, activists. Already she has been rounding up support and strategizing partners for the project.

The group’s goal is brilliant, a farm-to-school-table initiative. The Edible Peace Project wants to provide 5,000 lunches created with healthy food, raised on a sustainable farm to be located in South St. Pete. The meals will be prepared in the neighborhood, thus creating a circle of “food literacy” and employment for the area. Rather than bulk purchases from non-healthy sources, the students would enjoy healthy, locally produced food that they have had a hand in raising.

Best of all, the farming and food prep and delivery would employ local residents. The students would experience on a very practical level food production and grass-roots capitalism.

So where will the investment come from to underwrite this dream? Local donors, the Founders, are being sought to make this a reality. So far, 16 generous souls have each given $5,000 toward a goal of $100,000.

Dr. Curtis has moved ahead to create a regional series of food literacy projects, leaving Eckerd College for USF St. Pete and establishing a new initiative entitled The Edible Education Project. His collaboration in Temple Terrace with Greco Middle School connects the dots. The school has a commercial kitchen to teach food preparation, garden plots in the adjacent community garden, and even chickens and goats. He is also working with the Kinship Urban Farm in New Port Richey and running for the Pinellas County School Board.

Curtis is optimistic about the creation of a food culture in Tampa Bay in which urban sustainable gardens change the social infrastructure. “We can grow our way out of our current predicament,” he predicts. Certainly these fresh tendrils of civic activism bode well for both our schools and our neighborhoods. 

Comments (4)

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Kip will be the featured speaker at our Garden Happy Hour to benefit Greco Middle School Farm to Fork program on Friday, June 27, 5-8pm at Tanja and Jared Vidovic's Urban Farm. Admission free, read more: https://www.facebook.com/events/653715874704919/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

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Posted by Elizabeth A. Leib on 06/19/2014 at 1:01 PM

Where: Tanja and Jared’s Sulpher Springs Urban Farm
What: garden tour with Tanja and talk by Kent Curtis about the national Farm to Fork school movement
Bring: a bowl & a fork to hold salad varieties you’ll gather on Tanja's garden tour & a glass to hold your drink
Donations: accepted at the event or online: http://bit.ly/1uAVmox. contact: Elizabeth Leib, 813-892-5704, mleib1@tampabay.rr.com

Event description: End your week with a garden party that will give you a reason to be happy. Stop by for a glass of wine or beer and learn about the launch of Greco Middle School’s Farm to Fork program. Kent Curtis, founder of the Edible Peach Patch Project, will talk about the national Farm to Fork movement and share his vision for schools and the program at Greco. Greco has the potential to become a fully integrated farm-to-school education system, with its gardens not only serving as classrooms for STEM-oriented experiential education but also producing enough crops to serve a seasonal local-menu curriculum in the culinary school.

Afterwards, we’ll venture into the Vidovic’s urban forest and gather garden edibles to snack on. Cuttings will be available for a donation. Admission to the event is free. Donations for beer and wine and a raffle of local, handmade goods and services will benefit the Greco Farm to Fork program. Please park in Rowlett Park, just 500 ft from the house.

Visit for more information:
About Kip:
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kip-curtis/4a/24b/83
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k90eq2VcwqE
Farm to Fork at Greco Middlle School http://edibleeducationproject.com/temple-terrace-farm-to-school.htm AND http://peacepatch.org/

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Posted by Elizabeth A. Leib on 06/19/2014 at 1:02 PM

https://www.facebook.com/events/653715874704919/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Friday, June 27
at 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Next Week · 92°F / 75°F Chance of a Thunderstorm

Show Map
8503 N 28th st, Tampa, FL 33604

Where: Tanja and Jared’s Sulpher Springs Urban Farm
What: garden tour with Tanja and talk by Kent Curtis about the national Farm to Fork school movement
Bring: a bowl & a fork to hold salad varieties you’ll gather on Tanja's garden tour & a glass to hold your drink
Donations: accepted at the event or online: http://bit.ly/1uAVmox. contact: Elizabeth Leib, 813-892-5704, mleib1@tampabay.rr.com

Event description: End your week with a garden party that will give you a reason to be happy. Stop by for a glass of wine or beer and learn about the launch of Greco Middle School’s Farm to Fork program. Kent Curtis, founder of the Edible Peach Patch Project, will talk about the national Farm to Fork movement and share his vision for schools and the program at Greco. Greco has the potential to become a fully integrated farm-to-school education system, with its gardens not only serving as classrooms for STEM-oriented experiential education but also producing enough crops to serve a seasonal local-menu curriculum in the culinary school.

Afterwards, we’ll venture into the Vidovic’s urban forest and gather garden edibles to snack on. Cuttings will be available for a donation. Admission to the event is free. Donations for beer and wine and a raffle of local, handmade goods and services will benefit the Greco Farm to Fork program. Please park in Rowlett Park, just 500 ft from the house.

Visit for more information:
About Kip:
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kip-curtis/4a/24b/83
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k90eq2VcwqE
Farm to Fork at Greco Middlle School http://edibleeducationproject.com/temple-terrace-farm-to-school.htm AND http://peacepatch.org/

report   
Posted by Elizabeth A. Leib on 06/19/2014 at 4:00 PM

Any chance of Kip presenting to Hillsborough County School Board? Then the members could declare their positions, instead of just pointing to Learning Gate.

report   
Posted by Terre Tulsiak on 08/15/2014 at 11:55 AM
Showing 1-4 of 4

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