Born in Opelousas, Louisiana, Ms. Janet Taylor was raised in the Glades on a farm just six miles out from Clewiston. For the last 75 years, Ms. Taylor has continued to call Clewiston home and has been an active and prolific resident. This month she shared with us her commitment to the community, gardening and creating unity for all.

Q: How did the community garden start?

A: The garden was developed 20+ plus years ago to encompass the whole region for anyone located anywhere in the Glades that wanted to come and be.

Most recently, we partnered with the Harlem Town Association, U.S. Sugar, Harlem Civic Improvement Council and other organization to revitalize our community garden and expand its access to the whole region. The fenced garden now features an irrigation system with designated plots for certain produce.

Q: What is the purpose of the community garden?

A: We are trying to develop unity with our community garden. We also want to provide produce to the community and unite residents from different backgrounds to come together and share their cultures and talk to each other through plant cultivation and produce.

Q: What is grown in the community garden?

A: The community garden features mainly produce. We grow a variety of vegetables and spices including, collard greens, sugar peas, and tomatoes. Through our Caribbean residents, our community garden features a unique selection of spices. Some bananas and pineapples have also been planted in the garden. During Christmas, we like to plant poinsettias.

Q: How does gardening help the health and wellbeing of the Glades?

A: Our community garden helps us to eat healthier. In addition to our quest for unification, we want to promote healthy eating. A lot of our residents turn to the community garden to grow, and harvest produce and plants that have medicinal qualities. Currently, our aloe plant is one of the most popular.

Q: What is your favorite thing to plant in the community garden?

A: I love to plant collard greens, turnip greens and tomatoes with my grandchildren.

Q: How does the community garden engage with other local organizations?

A: We love partnering with our local churches and ministries and working with our youth groups. We are also always looking for opportunities to work with our local teachers and their classrooms as a learning opportunity for our children.

We also have hosted events like the Black History Program, where we served lunch with produce from the garden.

Q: What is your long-term vision for the community garden?

A: Long term, I would love for us to set up a farmer’s market to buy and sell food grown from our garden and elsewhere in the Glades. We are already working towards that, working with potential partners to invest in a pavilion where people can sell and display their produce.

Q: Do you have something special, fun or unique you would like to share about the garden?

A: Visiting the community garden is a social gathering event. People can come out and meet each other and we always welcome new visitors. We like to put on an activity or social event that encourages people to visit.

Q: What is the one thing you would like to share with those who may not be familiar with the community garden?

A: We would love to see you visit! Even if you don’t want to garden, please visit. Someone is always there, take time to engage in your community and see what’s going on. We would love to have you come out and see!

Those interested in volunteering or supporting the community garden can email for more information.

76 views0 comments

By CyNedra Blake

If you truly know the Glades, you understand the sense of pride our community holds for this region of Florida. The Glades is home to rich, plentiful soil that cultivates and produces many agricultural commodities that support our local communities and feed the nation.

Comprised of Hendry and Palm Beach County, the Glades celebrates and supports agriculture every day. Some of our biggest events of the year, the Black Gold Jubilee and the Clewiston Sugar Festival, are centered around the rich muck that exists in our region.

If you truly knew the Glades, you would understand our muck is something we are proud of.

Unfortunately, many do not know our community or understand our stories. Nor do they want to learn about our lives. Instead, they misuse our community for an eye-catching headline or viral sound bite.

They use the Glades as clickbait for environmental issues. For almost three years, our residents have been overwhelmed by the media asking about sugarcane burning.

These claims are hurtful not only to our community but to the people who live here. Our children, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons and grandparents are impacted. It pains generations of families.

The Glades is where we work during the day and rest our heads at night, this is our home. It is my hope that we can put these actions to rest. We matter. Our voices matter.

No community is perfect. We all have flaws. But the people of the Glades are tired of the continual disrespect for our home. We stand tall on agriculture and while we acknowledge the room for improvement, we cannot remain silent.

Instead of addressing real community needs like affordable housing, workforce development and increased access to healthcare, special interests brought a legal case against our community. These groups were focused on destroying a critical commodity that is the livelihood for many families.

After reviewing evidence of good air quality data and the countless stories of our local citizens, ministers, elected officials and farmers, the lawsuit was ultimately dropped. We were relieved to see our voices prevail.

The case was dismissed as the lawsuit had lacked evidence and was brought “with prejudice.” While this means they cannot retry the case, the damage had been done. This case wrongly wrote a prejudiced narrative that attempted to define our home and who we are.

Now that the case is over, we will continue our stories through the Voices of the Glades and other platforms. The Voices of the Glades is an online space that brings real, authentic and good stories of the community through real people. The online platform informs and addresses regional concerns and promotes community accomplishments.

The Glades is a farming region that is unlike any other in the state or the nation. Our soil is as rich as our culture.

We have never been interested in being clickbait. We are interested in keeping things real. Through the Voices of the Glades, we will speak about our livelihood, how we interact in our community, with each other, on our own accounts.

Despite the hardships we’ve faced from attacks by special interests, their spiteful actions have only made us stronger. Our community is special because it is filled with love and support and great opportunity. We are here to stay. We will share our love for the Glades.

But we cannot do it alone. Together, our voices are stronger to silence prejudice. Together we will rise.

Blake is a resident of South Bay and serves as a board member of the Voices of the Glades.

31 views0 comments

By Katrina Elsken

Lake Okeechobee News

CLEWISTON — Thousands of people turned out to “raise some cane” in the World’s Sweetest Town on Saturday, March 19, at the 2022 Clewiston Sugar Festival.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, local residents and country music fans from all over the country turned outto fill Civic Park in Clewiston where they enjoyed free concerts and local entertainment.

Hendry County Commission Ramon Iglesias enjoyed sweet treats as one of the judges for the Sweet Taste of Sugar Baking Contest. “The festival is amazing,” Iglesias said.

This year’s top winner was a banana pudding cake, he added.

In the U.S. Sugar tent, festival goers were treated to plenty of free festival souvenirs and information about the sugar industry.

Free samples of rock candy (some made from raw cane sugar, some from processed sugar) and orange juice gave visitors a taste of local agriculture. They could also sign up for a chance to win prizes.

“You can tell people have missed the festival,” said Judy Sanchez of U.S. Sugar. “Now it’s back and bigger and better than ever.

“People have shown back up in large numbers to celebrate sugar, agriculture and our community, bringing the family, seeing old friends and making new friends,” she said, Sanchez said she met festival goers from Texas, Colorado, Canada and from other countries.

Everyone was happy to be outdoors, enjoy the beautiful weather and celebrate with friends and neighbors at the open-air festival, Sanchez said.

“This is the sweetest festival in the country and possibly in the world,” she said.

At the Youth Center, Food Network Kids Baking Champion Keaton Ashton put his skills to work live to create a one-of-a-kind cake display that pays homage to the 2022 Sugar Festival, assisted by Carissa DaSilva, executive pastry chef at Mizner Country Club.

The pair created a cake in the shape of a guitar. The neck of the guitar held train tracks and the Sugar Express train. The sound hole in the guitar was a lake and a fishing boat.

The cake, which would provide about 250 servings, had a base of vanilla chiffon cake. The train was made of Rice Krispies Treats, covered in fondant.

Concerts included performances by Justin Mason & Blue, Alligator Alley, Sawyer Brown, Niko Moon and Cole Swindell.

View the full article in Lake Okeechobee News here.

25 views0 comments