You can drive by the garden all day and never see it.
Even if you pull into the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center and park next to it, it’s not easy to find.
Located inside an enclosure surrounded by palm, banana and papaya trees, this small enclave at the intersection of Jupiter’s two busiest roads is about more than just produce. It’s feeding families and educating a larger population about healthier eating.
Cliff Ross is the garden’s coordinator; his company supplies organic seeds, soil and know-how, and then the plot holders must do the rest: planting, weeding, and harvesting.
“Plots are leased for a one-year period,” Ross explains as he maneuvers through the tight rows of thirty plots. “We do keep up with the individuals and families who work them, and make sure they are doing what they promised. Ten percent of what is grown from each plot is returned to El Sol, and that produce is used to prepare the daily 11 a.m. hot meal for laborers.” Those laborers are hired out through El Sol by local businesses, and the now-organized and safe day labor structure is a far cry from a few years ago, when laborers lingered on street corners in predawn hours, hoping for work, and never knowing if they would be fully paid, or paid at all, or if they would become crime victims.
The amount of produce from these thirty plots is amazing, and much of it not your American garden-variety produce: Seminole pumpkins, Okinawa spinach (which Ross says is much more heat tolerant than other varieties), sugarcane and chipilín, an expensive leafy green herb used in tamales. You’ll also find papayas, bananas, a peach tree, carrots, sugarcane, peppers (sweet, bird’s eye and habañero), sunflowers, lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and a variety of leaf lettuces.
“People are always talking with one another, despite the language barriers,” Ross says. “And they exchange ideas about what to grow and how to use different things. And if someone has too much of one thing and wants to trade for something, you see a lot of that, too.”
Twenty of the thirty plots are reserved for low-income families using El Sol’s services. The remaining ten are available to the public, and there is a waiting list. This year-old community garden is more than just seeds in the ground waiting to sprout. These gardeners are a mix of ages, cultures and backgrounds, but as always, food serves as the universal language.
To find out more information about the garden, or get on the public plot waiting list, contact Cliff Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.