SARASOTA -- As a child, Jamie Barron would sift rocks out of her father's garden. Now, Barron has a plot of her own in Bayou Oaks Community Garden with her father, Mike Holsinger, and it has become a father-daughter activity.
"As they grow older, they become more interested in it," said Holsinger, one of the garden's volunteer managers. "It gives you a chance to be with your kids even as they are older."
About three weeks ago, Barron started planting in her plot, which now includes radishes and beets in addition to other vegetables and flowers. Since she is an artist, Barron included art in her plot and painted the adjacent barn red with her father.
"I wanted to have a plot because I wanted to slow my life down a little," Barron said. "(My father) always seemed at peace when he returned from his garden. It's been a lot of joy and a lot of fun."
There are more than 200 plots in the seven community gardens throughout Sarasota County. The two were at the garden, along with fellow garden members, to show the plots to the community at an free open house sponsored by Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension in partnership with Transition Sarasota.
The event gave the public a chance to learn about the community gardens in the area, which have been around since 1995. But Thursday was the first time, all of the plots were open to the public at the same time, said Stacy Haag-Spriggs, the county's community and school gardens coordinator.
"This is the first time we've done a county wide coordinated effort at it," Haag-Spriggs said. "We also wanted to make the gardens available to the public and raise awareness for the gardens."
The open houses were held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at Firehouse Park in Bradenton, Bee Ridge Park in Sarasota, Culverhouse Nature Park in Sarasota, Buchan Airport Park in Englewood, Laurel Park in Nokomis, Nokomis Park in Nokomis and Warm Mineral Springs in North Port.
The Community Gardens Open House also marked the end of Transition Sarasota's Eat Local Week, a week-long celebration to kick-off the new growing season by showcasing local food and farming in Sarasota and Manatee counties. During the week, there were 22 events put together by 24 local organizations, said Don Hall, Transition Sarasota executive director.
"The community gardens are an important part of our local food system and culture," Hall said. "They are also places where people interact with each other ... I think community gardening is possibly the purest form of what this is all about and bringing it together.
"There's a lot of excitement in the air right now about where this local food movement may be headed," he said. "Eat Local Week is a time to focus the energy around this local-food movement, but we really want people to eat local 52 weeks a year."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter