State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) student Joseph Kirshner is spending part of his summer break turning soil, watering and checking maintenance logs for an agricultural project he started at SCF Venice. On the weeks he’s not at SCF Venice, he’s spending his time in places like Costa Rica working on organic farms to help pay for traveling in the country.
When he returns for the fall semester, Kirshner’s first goal is to find students to help expand and maintain the food forest and to organize and recruit students for a club that will keep it going at SCF Venice in perpetuity. Woody McCree and Andrew Swanson, SCF professors and members of the Green Team in Venice, have talked about ways to create and maintain a food forest on campus, but wanted students to lead the effort. McCree discussed the idea with Kirshner while on a walk around campus with students during an Environmental Ethics class.
“He encouraged me to take initiative and to spearhead the project,” Kirshner said.
The freshman student did just that. He found a group of other like-minded students, borrowed his brother’s truck, went to the county landfill to get compost, and he and the other students set up a patch of ground and planted avocados, bananas, mint, basil, tomatoes, blueberries, pineapples and ground cherries. The idea was to plant native edible plants that can take off over time and feed a large community.
“I want people to have a stronger connection to nature and the natural cycles,” Kirshner said. “The edible factor should and will draw people in.”
Ultimately Kirshner, who plans to attend the University of Florida after he earns his associate in arts degree, wants the club to do graftings, establish seedlings and harvest food from the forest for SCF’s cafeteria and/or to donate to the community. He has chosen a large swath of land along the banks of the lake at SCF Venice where he wants to expand. The location has shelter, is close to the student union, and water from the lake is used to irrigate the fruits and vegetables grown there. With its lily pads, birds and fish, the aquatics offer the perfect nutrients for the garden.
Since the food forest was established on a small plot of land, SCF Venice has had a few visitors who are interested in the project, including the Rotary Club. Visitors are even welcome to come sample some of the produce, a leaf of basil or a sprig of parsley. Until it is established, and students can expand the forest, there’s no real grazing allowed.
For information, contact McCree at McCreeJ@SCF.edu or 941-408-1503.