A place where there was death, then destruction, is now blossoming with life.
At 11 a.m. Saturday a self-sustaining organic food garden grown in the ashes of a child’s murder scene will be officially opened at 1152 Gano Ave. in Orange Park.
Somer’s Garden is a living memorial of 7-year-old Somer Thompson, who was walking home from Grove Park Elementary School on Oct. 19, 2009, when Jarred Harrell lured her inside the home that once stood on the site, then assaulted and killed her. Harrell, then 24, is now serving life in prison.
Somer’s mother, Diena Thompson, obtained the foreclosed home, then arranged to have it burned down as a training exercise for firefighters. But her plan was to make the site a memorial to her daughter through a community garden of organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and other growth managed by Bringing Food Forests to Northeast Florida.
Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will be followed by garden tours and a question-and-answer session with Thompson and members of The Somer Thompson Foundation and Bringing Food Forests (bfftnef.org).
Bringing Food Forests co-founder Jolinda Kohl said the hope is it becomes an active spot for gardening workshops as well as becoming a community “food forest.”
“There are other facilitators out there that we also hope will take advantage of the garden and use it as a space to hold their workshops for kids or adults,” Kohl said. “One day I have the image of kids walking home from school, and when the garden is more mature, they will be grabbing organic blueberries or eating strawberries on the sidewalk. I can’t wait until that happens and I am super excited about it.”
Harrell’s mother owned the house, which became vacant after his arrest and went into foreclosure. The Somer Thompson Foundation assumed ownership via a bank transfer.