In its continued effort to support and uplift the community, AARP® Florida sponsors two raised garden beds that produced 175 pounds of fresh produce in 2022-2023. That produce was donated to the Community Food Pantry at Village Presbyterian Church in Carrollwood Village, a partner of Feeding Tampa Bay. This year the focus was on raising healthy greens as the Community Food Pantry especially appreciates receiving fresh collard, lettuce, kale, mustard and turnip greens, Swiss chard, and Pak Choi.
VISTA Seasonal Garden member, Ron Conradt, leads the AARP gardening group. “I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and we always had a large vegetable garden. I have a love of gardening and being able to combine my enjoyment of gardening with social interaction and satisfaction of helping others is what motivates me,” Conradt said. “I like knowing that my efforts help provide nutritious food to someone in need, and I like to envision people enjoying the fresh produce from our gardens.”
I am a novice vegetable gardener, but it’s joyful to spend time at VISTA, and I’ve learned so much from Ron, Jennifer, and Theresa. It’s a privilege to be part of something that fosters such a positive sense of community. Doug Rhea
This is the fourth year that AARP volunteers have gardened together at VISTA and Conradt is eager to continue raising food for the Community Food Pantry. He encourages others to get involved as well. “I hope we continue to expand the number of volunteers,” he said. Currently, the AARP gardening group includes Doug Rhea, Jennifer Jackson, and Theresa Quaye who alternate responsibilities for watering and tending the plants. They collectively gather at VISTA to plant and harvest.
Being a volunteer for the past four years has been a learning experience. It is great knowing that AARP helps feed families in need. Theresa Quaye
“Community gardens can improve the health of residents, foster economic development, combat social isolation and relieve food insecurity,” said Amy Matovina, Senior Program Specialist at AARP Florida. “Community gardens that are well-designed and effectively managed support access to inclusive and equitable public spaces for people of all ages, abilities, races, cultures and incomes.”
If you are interested in volunteering at VISTA Gardens with AARP Tampa Bay, please email FLAARP@aarp.org.
One of two AARP vegetable gardens growing at VISTA
Fresh greens ready for donation to the Food Pantry
These two raised garden beds at VISTA are a great example to our members and visitors of what community gardening is all about. We value and appreciate the contributions from the AARP Florida and these four volunteers. What many people may not know is that the produce from these two beds is an important part of a “green” cycle. Discarded produce from the food pantry comes back to VISTA for our composting production. That compost is what it then used to feed the soil in all our vegetable beds, which results in robust harvest of vegetables for the food pantry from the two AARP Florida beds.
Jennifer Grebenschikoff, President, VISTA’s Board of Directors