Ms. Jo’s garden is in bloom

Josephine Lampley and Carla Bristol, manager of the Food Systems Center at the St. Petersburg campus of Pinellas Technical College

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Josephine Lampley’s namesake, Miss Jo’s Garden, is in its third year. The garden was established to help show children the benefits of growing and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, as opposed to “eating out of the bag,” said Lampley, who grew up on a farm.

The Gathering of Women, Inc., a community-minded nonprofit group that Lampley works with, held a program for young people on Pinellas Technical College-St. Pete campus called “Kids in the Kitchen,” but Lampley said the women wanted to do more.

“We’re out there looking around,” Lampley said, “and noticed that all this space is just there, and were given the privilege to do something with it.”

PTC Director Boe Norwood agreed that the unused area could be put to good use and permitted Lampley to plant a garden on the campus grounds.

Once the area was cleaned up, Lampley said she and her partners decided to plant vegetables and herbs of all sorts.

“After doing that, we knew that it’d be a good thing to have the children work in the garden with us,” she said.

The Gathering of Women, Inc. has worked with some of these children already, while some of them come from local recreation centers. These young people, ages 5 to 15, handle many tasks in the garden from actual planting to pulling weeds and moving mulch.

“It’s exciting for them to come to the garden!” Lampley said, adding that they now grow a variety of vegetables, including different herbs, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, cabbage, peas and beans.

There are lots of collard greens on the grounds, too, in anticipation of the upcoming Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival in February. They even plant flowers, Lampley pointed out, as some of the children planted rose bushes in the summer.

Last summer, the kids got to taste the fruits of their labors as professional chefs arrived for Kids in the Kitchen. These culinary experts show the youngsters how to prepare and cook the tomatoes, peppers and other foods that they had grown in the garden.

“They really enjoyed the smell and the taste of the herbs,” Lampley said. “They liked to pick what’s out there and taste it, and we let them.”

Though Lampley no longer performs the more strenuous tasks that gardening requires, she is still very much involved on a daily basis as she waters the plants, pots them and generally oversees the care and attention all the plants and flowers need.

“I’m involved in all aspects of it,” Lampley said, “and I’m always here because it’s where I want to be. And I really enjoy seeing the excitement on the children’s faces. They have a wonderful time.”

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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