LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee hospitality students, the Culinary Innovation Lab on Lakewood Ranch's Main Street is all about getting hands-on experience.
By planting a community garden outside the lab, students will receive more hands-on training.
"They are just going to be exposed to some of the right ways to do things," said Joe Askren, director of the Culinary Innovation Lab. "Growing locally is what we are trying to promote there. ... We can now talk about food and how it is grown."
On Saturday, the 7-by 35-foot community garden modeled after the gardens on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria Island, was planted in front of the lab in Lakewood Ranch.
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Lakewood Ranch garden vegetables, including Okinawa spinach, katuk, moringa, Ethopian kale and Seminole
pumpkin, were planted with a selection of herbs.
Many vegetable seeds came from Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization in Fort Myers. The soil from Naturali Pro Florida used in the new gardens includes pasteurized chicken manure.
"Lakewood Ranch has a pretty good selection," said Michael Miller, landscape designer for Pine Avenue Restoration. "I am expecting some pretty good results."
Askren said he hopes USF students learn from the garden and other schools and community members visit to learn more about the farm-to-fork idea.
"I think the garden is more so of what can be done and how easy it is," he said.
The garden will be incorporated into different classes taught at the lab.
In the intro to food production class, students will help tend the garden and watch the vegetables grow. In restaurant management class, the garden will be tied to discussions of sustainability.
The first community garden, planted on Pine Avenue in May 2012, has since grown to more than 30 boxes, Miller said.
When the project began, the main problem was finding a way to ensure vegetables grew in the summer. Vegetables have not only been growing year-round, however, people have also begun planting gardens in their own backyards.
"Our intention all along is that we want to be practical, measurable and repeatable in our initiatives," said Michael Coleman, operating partner for Pine Avenue Restoration. "A good idea should be copied."
Coleman said it is likely more gardens will start popping up in Lakewood Ranch and other parts of Manatee County.
"I am hopeful of it," he said.
The Anna Maria Island community gardens continue attracting visitors to Pine Avenue. United Nations representatives recently visited the gardens and called it a "sustainable tourism site," Miller said.
"It looks like it is going to be a continuing thing," he said.
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024.. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.