SEBRING — If you’ve seen some bare patches of ground around First Sebring Church, they aren’t re-sodding. They’ll soon be sowing.
Church members have paid out plans for a community garden, to include citrus and olive trees, vegetables, herbs, berries, rental plots for families, a sensory prayer garden and an outdoor chapel.
Thursday found one of the organizers, Britten Miller, going over a printed map of the future layout for the garden, struggling to put it to graph paper to make a plan for the irrigation contractor to lay out the lines.
“I want to work with ending hunger,” said Miller, who remembers the first time he “weighed mulch” to put around trees was at that same church, at age 9, helping with his family business.
“My grandfather taught me what I know about gardening,” Miller said.
Now he’s adding his knowledge to others’ who have a vision for the southeast corner of the property. Pastor David Juliano said he had a vision, starting five years ago when the church tore down a dilapidated house on the southeast corner of 401 E. Center Ave.
He’d thought several times about having the church start up a community garden, but the time just wasn’t right, until this year. Then God spoke to him, he said, promising to grow the church in home and garden.
Assistant Pastor Rich Storts joined the church, with a passion for feeding the poor, and then Miller came along, a young man studying agriculture at South Florida State College. They have marshaled people and donations to make the garden a reality.
“This was God’s answer,” Juliano said. “Everything started falling into place.”
Miller said he got inspiration from a conversation at 413 Inspired Barber Shop and with Juliano about the dream for the garden. Juliano said Miller “lights up” when he talks about agriculture.
“He’s like a ball of fire,” Juliano said.
That passion has helped bring in donations. They got Jimmy Somers of Somers Irrigation Supply to bring in his tractor to plow the ground. Volunteers have cleared all the grass, roots and rocks from some of the plots.
Somers, Miller said, will donate design and supply of irrigation for the site. Nicholas Degue of Grandpa’s Garden Company LLC will give seeds and supplies. Martha Carson has given mulch, and Beth Skipper will give compost dirt.
Jacey McHargue of Hamilton’s Fruit Tree Nursery & More will donate fruit trees and supplies, Miller said. Thomas Marken of Green 2 Go Nursery will donate plants, soil and supplies. Bonnie Plants Inc. will donate $150 of plants.
Bernie Little Distributors in Sebring has pledged unlimited pallets, usually broken up for planter boxes. A large pile is already on site. The church is also supplying soil and mulch.
Other donations include a $100 Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse card from Jane Hancock and Don Applequist, along with an anonymous $100 donation.
Miller said the plan is to use permaculture, an agriculture method that uses organic fertilization and systems found in nature to sustain fertility in the soil.
They plan to have a beehive on site, to help pollinate the plants. People who want to draw bees to their backyard gardens can use sunflowers — which this garden will have — and marigold flowers.
For now, they still need to get plants in the ground. Anyone interested in helping with their hands or their donations can contact Miller at 863-414-1818.