A Jacksonville woman is hoping to unite the community and offset some of the negative environmental effects of food production by creating small community farms.
A Northeast Florida nonprofit, The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida, awarded her $5,000 this month to begin the project.
With the help of the grant, 27-year-old Melissa Beaudry is bringing to town something called Fleet Farming, modeled after a program created in Orlando. Homeowners donate their lawns to be turned into mini farms called “farmlettes.”
“And a group of community volunteers will then come and harvest the farmlettes and grow produce and then sell the produce at a local market,” she said.
And the revenue goes into creating more tiny farms. Beaudry said farming this way can offset the carbon footprint of global food production.
“Most prominently the amount of miles that our food travels to get to our plate,” said.
Which is about 1,500 miles on average, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
Beaudry said the grant will help her launch four gardens. She named Riverside, Springfield and the Beaches as possible neighborhoods.
The volunteers will live in the area of a garden and travel by bicycles with wagons attached to carry tools and transport harvested produce.
Beaudry and three other finalists pitched environmental projects last week, and hers got the votes most from a crowd of about 80 people.
The grant will fund all the equipment needed, like tarps and drip irrigation systems. She said it costs about $500 per yard to start the farmlettes. And one of the farmlettes will also have a beehive colony.
She said she envisions volunteer harvesters taking their produce to places like the Riverside Arts Market.
“There’s some people that just want to go for a bike ride and there’s some people that really want to buy some lettuce,” she said. “That’s the beauty of food is that it brings people together.”
Beaudry said she plans to start planting in the spring.
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Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.