Selby Gardens Partners with Easterseals, Eco Vets for Edible Gardens

Science & Nature

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY MAY 22, 2019

As Marie Selby Botanical Gardens continues with Phase One of its Master Site Plan, the organization has officially announced a formal partnership with the nonprofits Easterseals Southwest Florida and Operation Eco Vets to plot, plant and cultivate the new edible gardens that will be integral to the operation of the incoming Sky Garden project. This announcement solidifies an existing informal partnership since 2018, which saw volunteers from Easterseals and EcoVets creating and maintaining a previous edible permaculture garden at Selby Gardens.

As one of the flashier parts of Selby Gardens’ Master Site Plan, the proposed Sky Garden has garnered a lot of attention. Simultaneously a visitors center, parking structure and retail space, the Sky Garden also seeks to be an innovator in green construction, complete with a stormwater management system, green walls and enough solar capabilities to generate more electricity than the multi-purpose facility will use. And on its roof, it will also feature the world’s first Net Positive Energy Restaurant, operated by Michael's on East. This restaurant will be fueled in turn by the fruits of these new permaculture gardens to be overseen by volunteers from Easterseals and EcoVets.

“It’s a win-win, all around,” says Tom Waters, president and CEO of Easterseals. “The partnership brings many valuable opportunities to not only contribute to a sustainable restaurant, but an opportunity for people, many with disabilities, to utilize their skills for the greater society.” And for veterans volunteering through Eco Vets, the experience will serve as horticultural therapy.

Of the two edible gardens to be created by these volunteers, one will be available at the restaurant level for visitors to view at their leisure and learn about the plants, while the other will be situated on the roof and be a “significant provider” of edible plant matter for the restaurant below. Both will follow the principles of permaculture, utilizing crops suited for local climes and resources and reducing waste. This will, in turn, affect the menu, infusing it with truly Southwest Florida flavors.

“It is our hope that the citizens and visitors are able to not only enjoy the delicious food that will be grown in a sustainable manner, but that we are able to educate them on the important aspects of edible gardening and permaculture so that they may, in turn, implement these practices in their everyday lives,” says Selby Gardens CEO Jennifer Rominiecki of the possible impact these gardens could have on visitors. “Permaculture is absolutely something that everyday residents can support in their own gardening practices.”

Pictured: Volunteers from Eco Vets work in the edible garden currently at Selby Gardens. Photo courtesy of Selby Gardens.

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