If you are a gardener and are looking for plants to make for a wonderful edible landscape in central Florida, a trip to HEART Village should be in your future. Ditto if you are a central Floridian and are looking to become self sustaining with food that can be grown for crops while providing by-products from fertilizer to building materials in case the wheels come off the wagon.
It is a place that both has a sense of humor and a sense of purpose – making it the quintessential Florida Fun Zone.
The acronym HEART actually stands for “Hunger Education And Resource Training.” It is a facility located in a wooded area behind Warner University south of Lake Wales and is designed for young men and women who are headed into the mission fields in South America, Africa and Asia. Here they gain a knowledge of how to grow crops in challenging environments.
Like its counterpart, ECHO Farms in Fort Myers, those at HEART Village are learning how to grow vitamin-rich crops in tropical environments. However, many of those crops also will grow in the sub-tropics of central Florida.
At their recent “garden celebration,” we found the staff eager to share their best management practices that demonstrate how to grow both plants and small animals at a fraction of the cost using all natural ingredients.
Fertilizer, for instance, is created by making compost. The piles of leftovers such as kitchen scraps, leaves, grass cuttings, downed leaves and trimmed branches can be made into some of the best growing soil around with a minimum of work.
Companion planting and other techniques also are employed to maximize harvests while minimizing bugs and other destructive varmints. Many plants not normally grown here such as the Moringa tree, the Katuk and Cranberry Hibiscus have edible leaves that are rich in nutrients and taste.
They also can be used as landscape plants that add to the attractiveness of a home providing a garden at the same time. It is a great boon for those who wish to be self-sufficient while having to operate under the thumb of a Home Owners Association or other such regulating group.
The HEART Village’s garden celebration, featured numerous seminars and garden tours. That being said, private tours also may be established.
At the HEART Village there also is a wonderful little plant nursery where they sell starter plants for those who want to plant such things as Jackfruit, Mangoes, Papaya and other such fruit and vegetable plants started without chemical fertilizers or other such things.
They even have a non-hot habenaro pepper.
It truly is amazing to watch how the staff has repurposed everything from old concrete blocks and tires, to bamboo and other plants grown on the property for use as containers, borders or animal pens and shelters. Yes, they have goats, chicken, fish, pigs and even a water buffalo.