Fort Myers, Fla.,
04:00 AM

From Garbage to Gardens

Nonprofit grows gardens in low-income communities.

A garden full of fruits and vegetables is finding a new home in the middle of garbage-filled lot known for crime, thanks to the actions of one person who recognized his community’s needs.

Jesse Bryson, president and founder of I Will Mentorship Foundation in Fort Myers, Fla., works with low- income communities to engage residents in a broad range of gardening and nutrition education programs.

“In Fort Myers, if you think about the beach, you think about luxury. But if you think of the Harlem Lake community, you think of crime,” Jesse says. “It’s one of the poorest communities in the city. There is not a grocery store within a 10-mile radius of most residents. They don’t have access to organic foods because they are not affordable.”

That vacant lot will soon be home to a thriving garden. Using hydroponics and aquaponics in the organization’s lab, 500 pounds of fresh fish and 1,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables will be available every quarter.

“This garden can show people a better way of life,” Jesse says.

Jesse says the $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist® grant his organization received from State Farm® last year helped him to pursue this dream. “The grant allowed us to lay the foundation for a beautiful community.”

The 2018 State Farm Neighborhood Assist top 200 finalists have been chosen. The public can vote 10 times a day, every day for 10 days – Aug. 15-24 – for their favorite causes from the list of 200 finalists. Forty winning causes will be announced Sept. 25 and will be awarded $25,000 each.

To vote for your favorite cause, visit

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