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UF/IFAS and a Sumter County church are helping locals dig in the dirt

More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

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OXFORD, Fla. — Maureen McCoy has always gardened and enjoys knowing where her food comes from and exactly what is used to grow it. And that’s why she signed up for a plot in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

“There are no words for the peace of watering your garden and gathering the bounty you have grown,” said McCoy.

More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the church’s raised-beds on four acres of land that was once a pasture.  It cost UF/IFAS and the church about $5,000 to build the beds out of pressure-treated 2x6s and 4x4s and install irrigation from the church’s well.  Mulch for pathways was donated by Sumter County.  In addition, leftover soil was donated by Speedling in Bushnell.

Master gardeners with UF/IFAS Extension guide the budding horticulturists, who pay a $35 annual fee. Like McCoy, most of the gardeners live in The Villages, a planned retirement community of about 100,000 residents that does not promote the growing of vegetables in ornamental landscapes.   The gardeners grow vegetables in the community garden for their own use during the fall, winter and spring growing seasons.  They are self-governing and self-supporting, with the garden receiving the UF/IFAS 2015 Master Gardener award for Diversity.

Master Gardener volunteers teach garden members what it takes to plant, grow and tend to a vegetable garden.

“It’s been wonderful to work with my fellow gardeners,” McCoy said. “We have fun at our work days and potluck dinners!”

To learn more about how the garden operates, visit www.nsccgarden.org. For general inquiries about the garden operations, email Peggy Reineking at peggyreineking@gmail.com.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Sources: Lloyd Singleton, 352-689-4671, lsingleton@ufl.edu

Photo caption: More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

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