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  • Writer's pictureRick Burnette

The Risky Business of Gardening

While running an errand in south Fort Myers I noticed a garden patch. Squeezed between a canal and an apartment building, this plot didn’t contain the usual roadside ornamentals.

Rather it was a small grove of banana (or plantain) plants, papaya, some citrus, a young coconut tree and other tropical fruit. Someone’s trash had been tossed on the edge. It looked like many of those random overseas gardens that I’ve seen tucked away in the urban sprawl where rural workers often migrate for employment.

Every time I see such green oases I wonder what motivated each gardener. Homesickness? A needed reminder of the countryside? The convenience of a little homegrown produce?

Or like many of us, perhaps the gardener just couldn’t help herself (or himself). Sometimes you’ve just got to garden. It’s what some of us do.

While I own a 1/3-acre lot on which to grow fruit trees and vegetables, this gardener is making do with a bit of available space behind an apartment building on the edge of a canal. And I’m quite sure the gardener isn’t an “owner.” That means that she’s taking a chance on cultivating this plot of ground. I imagine that either the landlord or the city could put an end to her noble efforts at any time. This gardener is a risk taker.

Honestly, though, all gardening is risk taking. There’s a chance that each seedling we plant and nurture might succumb to an early death, whether by worm or drought.

For that matter, Cultivate Abundance is taking a risk on risk takers such as these. We’re planning to promote household gardening (particularly in containers) among a largely transient community of farmworkers who rent trailers on tiny lots.

We are taking the risk that communities, churches and schools in and around Immokalee will actually want to garden. We are taking the risk that home gardeners in Ft. Myers and Naples will actually be interested in donating surplus produce to enrich the diets of nearby farmworker families.

And we’re taking the risk that others will support the efforts of Cultivate Abundance, whether by volunteering or through contributions.

If that south Fort Myers gardener hadn’t taken the risk, she would never enjoy fresh plantains and papayas or the beauty of her garden. And if we don’t take the Cultivate Abundance risk, then we will never realize the expected benefits of growing and sharing food in Immokalee and beyond.

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