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Community garden opens in Big Cypress

Above, from left to right, Alice Jimmie, Billie Cypress, Lena Cypress and Kiki Roberts make seed bombs out of clay, soil, wildflower seeds and nutrients. The seed bombs were thrown into an open part of the garden so wildflowers will bloom to attract pollinators to the garden. (Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — Marty Bowers never gardened a day in his life, but he had an idea for a community garden in Big Cypress which he shared with the Native Connections advisory board, a division of the Seminole Tribe’s Center for Behavioral Health.

“I’ve had this vision since 2018 of a thriving garden and community members with their hands in the dirt,” said Bowers, a Big Cypress resident who serves on the board. “We have the capability to feed our tribe.”

The “Let’s Be Trees” community garden opened to the community Feb. 8. The organic garden consists of 40 garden beds, including raised beds for seniors, and a three sisters area where corn, beans and squash will grow together. Monthly workshops on gardening, climate resiliency, health, nutrition and fitness are scheduled as well as weekly meetings to check on the beds. The Native Connections board monitors the garden, encourages community involvement and provides the tools and seedlings necessary to get started. Some of the seedlings include various lettuces and greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and edible flowers. Driplines water the beds as needed.

“We have unity and community working on something together,” said Gherri Osceola, Native Connections tribal community support specialist. “Participation and involvement is our number one priority. We want to make it easy for them to be involved.” Bowers compares the community garden to a mycelium network, a fungal organism that connects individual trees and plants together through their root systems to share water, nitrogen, carbon and other minerals.

“I see the community like that; they can help each other grow and thrive,” he said. “What someone lacks, I may be able to help. If they are abundant in bliss, I may be able to join in that bliss.”

The practical aspects of growing fresh food could be a bonus for the community. Osceola envisions the possibility of the community gardeners having enough bounty to hold a farmers market on the site.

“It’s hard out here in Big Cypress to get something fresh,” Osceola said. “We have to go to Weston or Clewiston. This will save us money and time and be environmentally friendly.”

As of Feb. 8, 35 families had signed up for a garden bed. For more information about the garden, or to inquire about availability, contact Osceola at

Virginia Tommie (left) and Claudia Doctor walk through the community garden’s planting beds. The silver ones behind them are for seniors to use since they are higher than the standard green beds and easier to reach. (Beverly Bidney)
A mural is located next to the three sisters area of the community garden and was made by Ahfachkee School art students, who painted it on four weather-resistant wood panels. (Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at