A Lot Of Dreams Behind New Urban Garden In Dania Beach

Oct 31, 2013

An assortment of peppers grown at the Dania Beach urban garden.
Credit Tom Hudson

In the movie Field of Dreams, an Iowan farmer builds a baseball diamond in a cornfield and the ghosts of the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox materialize from the stalks.

Rachelle Lawson picks jalapeños from the urban garden project in Dania Beach.
Credit Tom Hudson

On a 1.6-acre plot of land in Dania Beach, there's nothing so supernatural taking place. Instead, the community, along with a public-private partnership, have joined together to build an urban garden. They grow vegetables and sell them to neighbors who otherwise have a difficult time finding fresh food near their homes.

The lack of access to fresh food and the low-income level in the area is enough for the neighborhood to be considered a ‘food desert’ by the USDA. Anthony Olivieri does not like that description. Olivieri works with the Broward Regional Health Planning Council to grow fresh vegetables in this particular Dania Beach neighborhood. Instead, he refers to the neighborhood as a ‘food environment.’ 

Leon Carroll has lived in this food environment his entire life. He's retired now and volunteers at the garden. Before kale, mustard greens and collard greens sprouted from bags on the plot of land, Carroll found most of his fresh veggies from his own personal garden. While he still tends to his own garden, he spends plenty of time tending to the peppers, radishes and pole beans of the community’s urban garden.

Rachelle Lawson also lives in the area and serves as the urban garden’s manager. In addition to her duties, she enjoys the fact that the urban garden has brought together residents who no longer have to travel to neighboring areas to purchase fresh food.  

There's also a public health component to this effort. Deaths from diabetes are 25 percent higher within the community compared to the rest of Broward County. This is why Olivieri consider access to fresh food as public infrastructure, similar to clean water and good roads.