Greening the desert: Florence foundation introduces community gardens to local backyards

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By Bridgette Crosby

Special to the Nugget

When people think of Florence, Arizona, a place full of community gardens and beautiful buildings usually doesn’t come to mind. But one determined woman is dedicated to making a difference in one of Arizona’s most historic towns.

Lina Austin, President of Future Forward Foundation, Inc. (3F), has been working non stop to beautify Florence and to that end has started a community garden program.

One of 3F’s goals is to create a farmers market in Central Pinal County.

“This area is known as a food desert, and really Pinal County should be a thriving center for food production, gardening and farmers markets,” Austin said. “We want to change that but you can’t have a farmers market without growers.”

Austin and her group found nine people who were willing to plant and tend gardens in backyards around Florence. The Foundation provided the drip systems, labor and the seeds. Participants were able to eat as much as they wanted out of the gardens as long as they promised to plant again in fall and sell or give the excess produce to the first 3F farmers market in 2014. Freeman is a master gardener and arborist who supplied most of the labor for creating the gardens, while Austin planted and help educate new gardeners.

During the ‘Seed the Future Garden Tour,’ residents from the community were able to see organic gardens planted in backyards, and one at the Tohono O’odham Native American Community. Some garden owners requested seeds from ethnic foods from their heritage including Japanese, Filipino, Italian and Native American.

Gardeners shared tips and ideas on their gardens and one lady excitedly pulled her very first Daikon radish. “I can’t believe I have this wonderful garden in my yard!”

Austin stated that the first farmers market is planned for summer 2014. “It’s going to take time,” she said, “but I hope that more people will join us and learn how to grow a little of their own food.”

The 3F Foundation is a 501c3 non profit organization. For more information, contact Lina Austin or call 520-313-2134 or email futureforward@cox.net.

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Lina Austin

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