Organizer hopes El Sol community garden will grow food, community spirit


Alyssa Wood, the systems developer at Jupiter’s El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, is organizing the El Sol community garden planned to open early next year. The 23-year-old Vero Beach native also plans to offer classes for children and adults in growing food and eating healthy.

A Jupiter resident for four years, Wood plans the garden on a vacant half-acre parcel on the north side of the El Sol building. About 30 small lots will be for rent for up to $30 annually based on user’s income. The lots are open to the public.

Volunteers and donations of wheelbarrows, shovels, fertilizer, soil, fencing and irrigation equipment and other gardening tools are needed. The garden is being paid for by a $50,000 grant from the West Palm Beach-based Palm Health Care Foundation and $4,452 raised by Whole Foods in Palm Beach Gardens. El Sol has applied for an additional grant from the Lost Tree Charitable Foundation near North Palm Beach.

Renters will donate 10 percent of what they grow to El Sol for meals at the center. The food will also go to the CROS Ministries food pantry. The ministry gives away food at El Sol on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m.

Question: What is your background before coming to El Sol?

Answer: I’ve been at El Sol for a year now, first serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I graduated from Florida Atlantic University Honors College with my degree in environmental studies in 2012. My undergraduate thesis focused on food justice and sustainable diets. I have worked on many food justice farms and have years of experience in sustainable agriculture.

Q. How has your background prepared you for working at El Sol?

A. While a student at FAU I tried to get a community garden at the Jupiter campus. I had to pass university-wide legislation that ended up with the FAU Boca community garden being a possibility. Also, I have worked/volunteered on community gardens and farms for my college and post-graduate life.

Q. What are your plans for the community garden?

A. The community garden will be a place where all Jupiter residents can get to know each other and grow healthy food for themselves and their families. A major goal of the garden is to see a decreased rate of diabetes and other diet-related disease among Jupiter’s low-income residents. I also envision this garden supporting Jupiter’s goals for a sustainable community, including its food system.

Q. What is your opinion of Jupiter’s residents toward El Sol?

A. I feel like El Sol is recognized as a vital part of our community, and it has finally earned the respect it has always deserved. I haven’t met anyone in Jupiter yet who has a negative opinion about El Sol.

Q. Beyond the community garden, what other programs do you see in the future for El Sol to involve the community?

A. El Sol as a whole depends on the community to function. We have over 520 volunteers who make our programs possible. That said, whenever El Sol notices a need, we address it. I can’t foresee what other programs we will offer in the future, but if there is a need we will depend on community members to make that service possible.

Q. What do you do when you are not working?

A. I play with my dog “Banjo” and cook. I enjoy hiking and painting as well.

For information or to volunteer, go to friendsofelsol.org or call 561-745-9860

For information or to volunteer, go to friendsofelsol.org or call 561-745-9860


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