A day of teamwork grows Florida Learning Gardens’ potential

Packing recycled pallets with dirt and plants, Beverly Morgan, Tracy Mortellaro and Rosa Webster create a vertical garden.

Packing recycled pallets with dirt and plants, Beverly Morgan, Tracy Mortellaro and Rosa Webster create a vertical garden.

Tampa Electric’s decades-long connection to the Florida State Fairgrounds blossomed with new vibrancy as team members developed gardens there to teach sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

The Nov. 8 event brought team members from Environmental, Health & Safety together with members of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful (KTBB), a nonprofit organization that coordinates coastal litter cleanups and projects that promote environmental awareness. On a warm day with a cloudless sky, the group planted trees, created paths, constructed a terrace for a gazebo and built vertical gardens out of recycled pallets (pictured) – ideal for people who lack space for in-ground gardening.

Tampa Electric team members build a terrace at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Tampa Electric team members build a terrace at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

“This team was eager to have the opportunity to work on the third phase of four at the Florida Learning Gardens,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land & Water Programs with EHS. “True to its name, we learned quite a bit about the techniques KTBB uses to help this area become a more sustainable community. It will be exciting to come back and see how our work looks after the plants have had time to grow.”

Future KTBB projects at the site will include a clean-energy windmill and an aquaponics area – that’s a small ecosystem with plants and fish – that will contain tilapia. When completed, the garden will be a showcase for students and anyone interested in sustainable gardening.

The team poses with the terrace it built, soon to be filled with flowers.

The team poses with the terrace it built, soon to be filled with flowers.

“We’re grateful for TECO’s participation in this effort,” said Pat DePlasco, development and community relations director with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. “You brought your hard work, your muscle and your energy to the Florida Learning Gardens. You’re role models showing others how to be role models.”

After an activity-filled morning – and before putting the finishing touches on the terrace – the team sat down for a lunch catered by Metropolitan Ministries, with each lunch purchased going to feed people who regularly go hungry. It was a fitting moment on a day in which team members made a real difference, Kroh said.

“A lot people probably don’t know about the Florida Learning Gardens at the fairgrounds,” Kroh said. “But after KTBB finishes its work, and with the help we provided, more people soon will.”

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