30 Jan 2020
30 Jan 2020
Sulzbacher Village children can experience the wonder of horticulture with Thursday’s opening of the Family Garden as part of the Crawford Early Learning Center.
Nearly a year ago, Sulzbacher opened the village at 5455 Springfield Blvd. to help single women and those with families move forward by providing them with permanent, supportive housing outside the downtown Jacksonville core. One of the on-site resources available is the Crawford Early Learning Center, a partnership with the Toni and Andy Crawford Family Foundation and the Florida Institute of Education at the University of North Florida.
An integral component of the center provides behavioral health services to help children dealing with trauma resulting from homelessness, domestic violence and other situations that can permanently scar them if left unaddressed.
“The garden is a place where each child has something they can call their own,” said Christine Stephens, director of the early learning center. “They decide what they want to plant and each has their own set of gardening tools to help them tend their crops.”
Parents also are encouraged to share with their children in a garden experience free from stress and other social-emotional factors that have affected them. Stephens said when it’s time to harvest their bounty, the children can bring home the food they’ve grown for the whole family.
The first crops planted in the garden at the end of March included mint, kale, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and a variety of herbs and flowers.
In addition to learning first-hand experiences with nature, the children can marvel at the process of growing food from seeds and having that responsibility. Organizers said the garden also offers problem-solving, building science and math background knowledge, categorizing skills, learning to work together and fostering friendships and relationships.
“Toni Crawford and FIE have been incredible partners,” said Cindy Funkhouser, Sulzbacher president and CEO. “But several others also helped get our Family Garden up and running. Builder’s Care donated their labor and built all of the raised beds and fences. Berry Good Farms is providing all of our seedlings and starter plants and herbs at a discounted price. … They are working with our pre-school children and teaching them how to take care of the garden properly.”