LAKE WALES, Fla. – Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.
The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents.
“This beautiful, serene place will become a hub for UF/IFAS Extension programming, allowing our agents and faculty, along with Bok staff, to teach new generations of people an understanding of where their food comes from and how it is grown, along with taking care of the plants and trees around them,” said Nick Place, UF dean and director for Extension. “Once the program is operational here, we plan to bring it to regional schools and communities and, eventually, the entire state.”
Through this long-term partnership, Bok and UF/IFAS Extension will promote school and community gardening, native-plant and wildlife gardening, and garden classes through existing IFAS programs such as Florida Friendly Landscapes.
“This partnership is an exciting chapter in our history to be able to affect positive change in the larger community,” said David Price, president of Bok Tower Gardens. “Edward Bok’s legacy has been to ‘make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.’ There is a need to connect people with plants on which our survival and quality of life depend. Food production and the environment are determined by the plants we grow.”
“We are in the midst of implementing a master plan that will create new garden experiences, and the opportunity to partner with UF/IFAS Extension enhances these spaces and the programming that we will be able to offer,” Price said.
UF/IFAS is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences, and enhancing and sustaining the quality of human life by making that information accessible. With agricultural Extension offices in all 67 Florida counties, UF/IFAS has developed an international reputation for its accomplishments in teaching, research and extension.
Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark dedicated in 1929 as a gift from Dutch immigrant Edward W. Bok, Pulitzer-prize winning author and world peace advocate. Nearly 700 acres of groves, historic Olmsted gardens, and conservation lands surround the 205-foot, art deco marble tower with its 60-bell carillon. The Gardens’ mission of music, horticulture and conservation provides unparalleled opportunities for artistic, cultural, personal and spiritual enrichment.
UF/IFAS Extension and Gardens officials will celebrate this partnership and the beginning of construction on a new education building Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. The new facility will enable UF/IFAS Extension to expand its presence at the Gardens and will house regional UF Extension agents, faculty and program staff, as well as Gardens education and conservation staff. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
As part of the expansion, a new outdoor kitchen and edible garden will feature plants from harvest to table through culinary programs and chef demonstrations. Elsewhere in the Gardens, visitors will be able to explore a new wetland and the wildlife it will attract.