NewsPinellas County


Clearwater garden helping homeless now has mobile market to sell produce

Residents at Homeless Empowerment Program work in thriving garden
 Clearwater's Homeless Empowerment Program garden
Posted at 5:18 AM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 07:35:46-04

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jeff Curto is harvesting the prettiest romaine lettuce you've ever seen.

"It's definitely a peace and love feeling I get here," said the disabled Army veteran, working in a very special garden.

Curto is a resident at Clearwater's Homeless Empowerment Program, a state-of-the-art eight-acre campus that houses veterans, families and more.

One of the points of pride at the nonprofit is a sprawling garden, which grows bountiful produce in both in-ground and vertical formats.

Residents and community volunteers work in the garden, which provides food for people at HEP, including staff.

Both in the growing and the eating, the garden is changing lives.

"It's very healing work," said Maissie Hughes, the garden's program coordinator. "It's important for people to have a connection to the land."

The garden has thrived so much that HEP started a new Mobile Market to sell vegetables to the public.

This Saturday, the Mobile Market will be at the Clearwater Hispanic Farmers Market.

Proceeds will go back to funding the garden and other programs at HEP.