New Drip Lines to Irrigate Food Forest

On Friday, April 5, local residents and students from Eckerd College volunteered to install the beginnings of a new drip line watering system in the Food Forest planting beds in Clymer Park, said Crea Egan, founder and director of the forest project. The Gulfport park is located just north of the Catherine A. Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Avenue S. Seated on the ground and pictured from left are Egan; Margaret Glazar, Eckerd College sophomore; and, Tori Bamford, Eckerd College junior. Seated in a chair in the back is Laura Shepherd of Gulfport. While they were waiting for the pipe installation team to determine how they could help, the women worked together to shell pigeon peas that were harvested from the forest. “The mission of the forest is to provide food security for our small village and also wildlife enhancement along with a marriage between art and ecology,” said Egan. 

Thanks to volunteers from Gulfport and Eckerd College, a new drip-line irrigation system is beginning to be installed in the Food Forest that is part of Clymer Park, said Crea Egan, founder and director of the forest.

The project started on the morning of Friday, April 5. And, the volunteers from Eckerd are students who are earning a participation certificate that can be used in their possible application to the Peace Corps.

“The aim is to engage with groups in our communities that are doing good work,” said Anna Ruth, director of grant development at the college. “The Peace Corps Prep program is for students who are interested in applying to the corps. It doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get in but it gives them training and exposure in the areas that are required for a successful application. They take coursework, do community service and cross-cultural education. When they complete the program, they get a certificate.” 

The drip line irrigation system is manufactured by DIG of Vista, California said Bob Bates, the local volunteer that led the installation effort. About 1,400 feet in several planting beds was installed. The rest of the project will be finished in about a month.

Special non-clogging emitters or holes are located every 18 inches in the 1/2-inch round pipe and about a gallon of water an hour is delivered to the plants, he said.

“So, 100 percent of the water that comes from this irrigation system goes to the plants. Evaporation is virtually zero and zero water is wasted,” said Bates. “Installing this system is something that anyone can do. It doesn’t require a professional.”

The Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College is providing the funds for the irrigation project through a grant, said Egan.

“The mission of the forest is to provide food security for our small village and also wildlife enhancement along with a marriage between art and ecology,” said Egan.

She said there are three ways their mission is accomplished:
1. We learn how to take care of ourselves;
2. We learn how to take care of the Earth through growing plants; and,
3. We learn how to share the surplus.

“If we can do these things, there’s a good chance that peace on Earth can prevail,” said Egan.

The new irrigation system will help to create “robust islands” of vegetation in the park for pollinators and birds like raptors, said Bates. “Entire ecosystems begin to develop around each one of these planting beds. We can all see it happening. As the water gets in there, the plants start to gain advantage.”

For more information about the the Peace Corps Prep program, visit eckerd.edu/peacecorps.

Bob Bates, foreground, cuts one of the new drip-line watering pipes as his son, Bobby Bates, looks on. They were part of a group of volunteers who were working in the Food Forest of Clymer Park on Friday, April 5. The new drip lines are installed “around the plants in the beds then pinned down with wire and lightly covered up with leaves so they are not right in your face,” said Bob Bates.

 

 

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