A fascinating trio of women spoke at the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs District IV Spring Meeting at the Garden Club on May 21. Cheryl Cummer, Valerie Herrmann, and Madelaine LeDew, discussed Lanakila Gardens, the 2.5-acre property on the St. Johns River that Cummer has worked to preserve through the North Florida Land Trust. The entire property is maintained organically and sustainably using agroecology principles, and includes a regenerative food park, a micro-flower farm, and a riparian flood-tolerant garden on the river.

A Jacksonville native, Cheryl Cummer received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University in Washington D.C. Cummer worked at WJCT, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. In 2008, Cheryl returned to Jacksonville and placed her 2.5-acre Lanakila Gardens in a residential conservation easement with the North Florida Land Trust. She hopes to create a permanent nonprofit with training for organic, regenerative gardening which would be resilient in face of Florida’s growing fragility due to climate change.

Valerie Herrmann is the executive director of First Coast Urban Ag with a mission of growing resiliency, equity, and agricultural job opportunities in North Florida’s food systems. In 2019, Herrmann was a winner in Florida Blue’s Block by Block competition looking for innovative solutions to remove critical barriers to food security. She is still working on this “regenerative farm franchise” concept set along Groundwork Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail. She managed Clara White Mission’s White Harvest Farms as it transitioned from chemical to an organic/regenerative production farm and was on the grant-writing team that pulled in a three-year grant to demonstrate that farming by improving the soil biology produces equal or better yields, more nutrient-dense food, and less disease. Herrmann’s award-winning company, The Food Park Project, is still creating food forest gardens but is in the process of creating a food forest nursery all grown in-house.

Madelaine LeDew is the garden manager of Lanakila Gardens in Mandarin. LeDew began work in 2014 as assistant gardener to Valerie Herrmann. In 2018, she took over the management of the existing garden spaces and led the design and installation of the River Garden and Flower Farm. She has also done a variety of landscape design, installation, and maintenance projects throughout Northeast Florida. A graduate of the University of North Florida, LeDew is passionate about ornamental horticulture, garden design history, aesthetic philosophy, and proper taxonomic classification.

Contact Lanakila Gardens

If you are interested in learning more about or visiting Lanakila Gardens, please contact Garden Manager Madelaine LeDew here.

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