In Dania Beach, CRA director Jeremy Earle took a different path when planning a garden. “CRAs sit on the business side of government. They must eliminate blight and show a return on investment,” Earle said.
Instead of a community garden, Earle envisioned a self-sustaining market garden run by locals, creating jobs as well as potentially improving health.
Dubbed PATCH — short for People’s Access To Community Horticulture — the garden took root in 2013 in Dania Beach’s Sun Garden Isles neighborhood, designated a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food deserts are areas where the residents have limited healthy food options.
Helped by seed money from the Broward Regional Health Planning Council, the city set out 2,500 grow bags — plastic bags filled with soil and nutrients — on city-owned land that had been a magnet for dirt bikers and trash. Besides being a productive growing medium, the bags safeguarded against possible saltwater intrusion and potential contaminants from a nearby warehouse site, PATCH’s management team said.
Soon the 1.6 acres blossomed with kale and collards, Swiss chard and baby eggplants. With shoppers from Fort Lauderdale as well as the city’s winter Canadian tourist trade, PATCH’s profits easily exceeded the $1,000 a year in CRA funds needed to run it.