Riviera Beach, Fla. – “You guys look like sho-nuff farmers,” an attendee quipped.
“That’s right,” responded Veleké Brown. “We weren’t when we started, but we are now.”
Now was Saturday’s grand opening of the Riviera Beach Urban Farm and Restorative Garden, on the site of the former city ﬁre station at 1621 W. Blue Heron Boulevard.
There, Brown and others were glowing over what they literally and ﬁguratively have coming up out of the ground.
“This nonproﬁt, that young lady started it,” said Assistant City Manager Deirdre Jacobs, pointing to Brown. “It’s her vision, her idea, her project.”
LOOKING TO EXPAND
Her project is a part of Operation No Food Gap, said Brown, founder and CEO of E-Roadmap Corp., which manages the garden through the No Food Gap operation.
“We had our groundbreaking for this particular space in April,” Brown said. “We planted our ﬁrst seed in May. So between May and the ﬁrst of September we harvested close to 4,000 pounds of produce, and distributed it to the community.”
Saturday’s visitors were seeing the second planting, said Amon Yisrael, who also has been active with the project. “From the ﬁrst crop we had cucumbers galore, tomatoes large and small, we had beans, zucchini squash, okra, yellow squash, lettuce” and more.
The long-term vision of Operation No Food Gap, Brown said, “is to eradicate food deserts throughout Palm Beach County. The areas that we have identiﬁed will be Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach, Delray, Boynton Beach, a pocket of Jupiter, and Belle Glade. So we’re looking to expand to those areas by 2023.”
“The American Heart Association is our ofﬁcial partner for the initiative Operation No Food Gap,” she added. Other sponsors include the Children’s Services Council and No Kid Hungry, Brown said.
“American heart is very strong in terms of implementing the workshops. We do some senior workshops in terms of juicing. We do healthy cooking workshops. We have gardening classes for the kids, and of course the opportunities for the residents to volunteer.”
Residents will get a new ﬁre station down the block at Congress Avenue, among the stations being replaced or reﬁtted along with City Hall, the city water plant and other projects, said Jacobs. The city still owns the former ﬁre station property it provided for the effort, she said, and the county gave support as well.
“We entered into a partnership with the city” for the land, Brown said. “We didn’t acquire it, we have right of use, so we’re able to develop it.
Amid the garden tours, free seeds donated by the Heart Association, food, music, and the JFK Middle School cheerleaders and band, the repurposing of the property brought nods of approval from some of the estimated 200 attendees.
“Let the land produce, that’s what it’s here for,” said Brown. To sign up and participate, she said, go to nofoodgap.org.