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Inner-City Garden Plants New Hope in Miami Neighborhood

Marvin Dunn

Marvin Dunn

As a university professor in Miami, Florida, Marvin Dunn launched an inner-city garden to give his students an outlet for volunteer activity. Now his vision has grown into a year-round urban farm that produces scores of vegetables and fruits.

Marvin Dunn grew up in Overtown, a historical black neighborhood in Miami. He knows it once saw brighter days.

"Overtown was a popular, healthy, wonderful place to live," said Marvin Dunn. "There was no unemployment here. And then over the years the community declined."

Like in many inner-city areas of America, jobs left and drugs and crime moved in. But amid the challenges, Dunn saw an opportunity, even if he didn't have claim to land in Overtown.

"There were vacant lots, a lot of trash, garbage here," he said. "We just started planting. I figured what were they going to do, tell me to bring the [drug] needles back? Bring the garbage back?"

Now Dunn has a deal to use the land and several financial grants to support his vision.

"We have broccoli, spinach, cucumber, beets...," said Maggie Pons.

The garden produces vegetables, fruits and herbs to sell or give away to the community. Site manager Maggie Pons says in two years the plot has grown from a garden into a year-round farm.

"It's constantly seeding, it's constantly transplanting, making sure the crop is doing fine," she said. "So it's beyond a garden."

To care for the plants, there is a team of eight workers, mostly unemployed people from Overtown. Ronald White says the garden is a step toward positive change.

"Hopefully, doing this and people seeing this, it'll change things, [be]cause this neighborhood needs a lot of help," said Ronald White.

In addition to jobs, the garden provides healthy food for low-income residents. Dunn says few people in Overtown can afford to buy fresh, organic produce.

"That has certain health implications, especially for children," said Dunn. "That is why last growing season, we took most of our produce to schools in this community and distributed it for free."

Much of the garden's output is given away for free. Dunn says he is happy knowing it is going to those who need it most.