#GiveTLH 2021: Damayan Garden Project planting seeds to expand food-growing efforts – Tallahassee Democrat


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 Damayan means “to help each other” in Filipino, which is the perfect word to describe the Damayan Garden Project, a nonprofit organization that was founded over 30 years ago with one purpose: to increase food security for low-income families. For seven years, Damayan was a grassroots, volunteer-run organization planting only family gardens. But, a desire to expand into the community and education led to planting community gardens in underserved neighborhoods, community centers, and schoolyards.Now, the mostly volunteer-run organization is looking for partners who want to support local food systems through community education and collaboration.  Reach One Youth: #GiveTLH 2021: Reach One Youth prepares students for success in lifeSTEMS 4 Girls: #GiveTLH 2021: STEMS 4 Girls stays on the move to engage students in learningDamayan Garden Project is one of nine local nonprofits being recognized with a $1,000 grant for their work by the Beatitude Foundation and #GiveTLH, a community effort underwritten by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney. Each organization’s story will be shared in the Democrat, along with information about how you can help.Damayan partners with community organizations and schools to establish garden spaces and implement outreach education. Currently, two gardens are tended in Frenchtown and one is at the South City Tech Learning Lab. More partners are welcome. Executive Director Rebecca Trinidad says, “We do as much as we can to utilize the existing infrastructure to make healthy food accessible to everyone.”In addition to sourcing materials like soil, compost, plants and seeds, Damayan offers hands-on instruction for new gardeners to master their skills and share their knowledge. Permaculture-certified Master Gardeners lead workshops and guide volunteers as they work together on community beds. The foundation of Damayan is the belief that everyone should have access to fresh, wholesome food and the benefit of eating locally grown, seasonal produce. To that end, Damayan creates sustainable community gardens in Leon County’s underserved communities to provide fresh vegetables and medicinal herbs, without pesticides.By planting gardens and teaching others organic and pesticide-free gardening practices, Damayan plants the seeds of change toward a sustainable future.“We are at a bit of a tabula rasa right now, a time for renewal,” shares Trinidad. “We are creating a network from existing infrastructure to get food moving to people. Our goal is simply to grow food for the community.”  Damayan Garden Project also hosts free educational and training workshops on composting, soil health harvesting techniques, and sustainability, and partners with local schools to create gardens on school grounds and the students help maintain them throughout the seasons. Donations and plant sales at local farmers markets and fairs sustain the organization. Many local gardeners donate trees, seeds, and plants as well. With one paid employee, volunteers are critical and abound from local universities.“There is a lot that we can do in our community to create a localized food system that benefits everyone,” Trinidad explains. “We are thankful for our volunteers and welcome anyone who is interested in being part of our mission.” Volunteers are guided and no expertise is needed.Potential partners can explore damayangarden.org or contact [email protected] for more information.The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. In addition to a micro-grant for each featured organization, the top three vote-getting organizations will receive a $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 grant from the Beatitude Foundation. The stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.About #GiveTLH#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the conclusion of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com. Never miss a story:  Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.
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