Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be highlighting some of the people doing great work in Florida’s communities that make us #FloridaProud. To share your stories of people and organizations that make you Florida Proud, write a comment on our blog, make a post on our Facebook page, or send a tweet using the hashtag #FloridaProud.
“The Man in Overalls” Bringing Gardening Skills to Tallahassee Communities
Nathan Ballentine, also known as “The Man in Overalls”, is a familiar character throughout the city of Tallahassee. Beyond being a passionate gardener since the age of eight, he is also an educator, a community organizer, and the mascot for the Tallahassee Food Gardens. In the beginning of his food movement, Nathan admits to not knowing much about promoting community gardens.
“I knew nothing about marketing. In the beginning, I would stand beside the road with a pitchfork and picket signs that read ‘Grow your own food and share it’… I wanted to be a small town character.”
Nathan makes his living by developing food systems and gardens throughout the communities of Tallahassee, which include schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations. These community gardens are meant to provide healthy, fresh, and affordable food “for self and neighbor.” Nathan is most proud of his partnership with the Tallahassee Food Network.
“This partnership created a hub for food movement activity with the help of local farmers, community nutritionist, chefs, dieticians, etc… It lets people from all across [the food movement] dream with each other and use [each others' assets] to open up the possibilities."iGrow, a "Youth-empowerment and urban agriculture initiative in the Frenchtown neighborhood of Tallahassee which maintains a community garden at Second Harvest Food Bank and plans to launch a youth urban farm in the fall."
“The poverty rate (in Frenchtown) is around 26%. This project is meant to enable people with limited space and experience to grow their own food.”
Nathan is a truly dedicated individual who uses his passion for food and sustainability to advance the lives of others. Working with fruits, vegetables, soil and sun is all in a day’s work, and getting involved in community gardens is easier than it sounds.
“The most important thing is to talk to people. Talk to the people around you to get involved today. They say ‘if you build it, they will come’, but that doesn’t always happen. I feel that you should collaborate with people from the very beginning.”
Nathan says, “We need to work together across lines of social division with people different from us-- from the beginning-- to conceive our ideas and projects, so that our initiatives can succeed in diverse and disparate communities and networks. This approach has been at the core of the Tallahassee Food Network's success.”
To see “The Man in Overalls” in action, check out this video:
We are proud of the work that Nathan Ballentine has done for Tallahassee. To share your stories about organizations and individuals that make you #FloridaProud, write about them in the comments section of this blog, on our Facebook page, or tweet them with the hashtag #FloridaProud.