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Experience the New Orange!

The Orange County Convention Center blog

Center to Community Gardens: Feeding the Region

L-R: Onsite farm manager and owner of Urban Smart Farms, Diego Dutra, with Centerplate Sustainability Director, Molly Crouch. 

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), in partnership with Centerplate and Urban Smart Farms, continues to support the region through the donation of fresh herbs and produce from the OCCC’s Center-to-Table Gardens. These efforts help to ensure that nutritious meals are accessible to families across Orange County during these trying times.

To date, the OCCC has supported the donation of 10,000* plants to local organizations such as Giving Hope Again, the Orlando Forum Dinner Show, United Against Poverty, Coalition for the Homeless, Orange County Great Oaks Village, Embrace Families, and 4Rivers’ Feed the Need initiative.

Feeding thousands across the region, the donated produce is grown and harvested from the OCCC’s Center-to-Table Gardens. With a total of 81 towers and 44 growing spots, these vertical gardens produce hundreds of fresh, non-GMO plants on a weekly basis.

Designed to support the Center’s mission for sustainability, the OCCC’s Center-to-Table Gardens offer a unique sustainable dining solution for guests and attendees. With the entire growing process taking approximately 4 to 6 weeks, the Center’s onsite farm manager, Diego Dutra from Urban Smart Farms, is responsible for seeding, transplanting and harvesting the plants, as well as the maintenance, care and cleaning of the towers.

Working in close collaboration with the Centerplate Culinary Team, Diego determines the type and quantity of produce to grow. Regularly harvesting anywhere from 750 to 1,200 plants per week, the Center-to-Table gardens play a pivotal role in meeting the Center’s high sustainability standards.

However, with the decline in event activity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OCCC, Centerplate and Urban Smart Farm employees have continued to dedicate their time to harvesting and distributing these essential resources to the local community.

“Although the world around us appears to have come to a standstill, our gardens continue to grow and produce hundreds of healthy, nutritious plants per week,” said Centerplate’s Sustainability Director, Molly Crouch. “Growing into a living symbol of resilience, strength and compassion for our community, our gardens are helping us make vital contributions to the community, allowing us to stay grounded in what matters most.”

The OCCC and service partners will continue to make weekly donations to local organizations for as long as necessary, to turn these challenging circumstances into an opportunity to serve those in need.  

* Donations current as of June 10, 2020. 

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