Garden Sharing Movement Sparks Community Interest

Margaret Eldridge and boyfriend Wesley have joined the nationwide “Food is Free” movement, which encourages local communities to grow front-yard food with the intention of sharing it with the public. Participants can leave a Food is Free sign up, and expect locals to help themselves. “The idea is to do your own thing, and share,” said Eldridge. 

Front yard fruits and vegetables just got a little more personal. 

Since August, Gulfport has joined the national “Food is Free” movement, a collection of 350 branches whose members participate in growing shareable plants that are free for the public. 

“This is a national movement, and it invites people to open up the idea in their own communities,” said Gulfport Food is Free leader Margaret Eldridge. “I think Gulfport is progressive enough.”

The movement, which currently also has a St. Petersburg branch, requires a “Food is Free” self-made sign propped near the homeowner’s garden to alert visitors that the space is open to the community. 

“I’m hoping people will participate at least on a small scale,” said Eldridge. “We’re trying to get people in the spirit of it.”

According to Eldridge, the budding movement will encourage neighbors to share common interests and get involved with one another. 

A Facebook page, “Food is Free Gulfport Fl,” encourages users to post their personal garden growths. 

“I have a lot of rosemary available 17th South and 58th,” Julie Armstrong recently posted on the public forum. 

Outlawed Growth

Two months ago, this could have been a violation of Florida law. 

However, in July, the Florida Legislature passed a bill protecting vegetable gardens, and allowing all Floridians to legally grow foods in their front yard, regardless of homeowner associations and apartment regulations. 

“I think it’s wonderful that this concept is seeing some revitalization,” said Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson. “It’s something we have done for decades in our family, and I hope it catches on with more people.” 

Since this statewide “green change” rolled into effect, garden lovers have been expanding, resulting in more branches of Food is Free, and similar movements springing up. 

“There have been a couple people who had a negative response, and are concerned with the homeless people in their yards,” Eldridge said. “That is really not the vision here. It’s just a matter of growing food to share with your neighbors.” 

For more information, visit facebook.com/foodisfreegulfport/

 

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