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By: David R. Corder, Daily Sun Senior Writer | Jan 30, 2019

The Villages Grown, Southern Oaks Work Quickens

The magnitude of The Villages Grown farm-to-table project is substantial.

One step inside the 24,000-square-foot processing center reveals the extent of this beyond-organic farming venture at the southwest corner of State Road 44 and Morse Boulevard.

Extensive greenhouse framing work also now underway next door attests to The Villages’ appetite for getting this “food-as-medicine” project finished quickly and the produce raised there onto the plates of Villagers.

The distribution and retail aspect of this venture will evolve quickly, too, following the first harvest of the nutrient-dense greens, lettuce, kale and chard, and eventually other produce, said Ryan McCabe, The Villages operations manager.

“We’re going to be pushing it out in phases,” he said. “So, as soon as we get our first greenhouse available, we’re going to go ahead and start growing into that. Then as the other greenhouses come online, we’ll start growing in there as well. Residents can expect to see a phase-out approach, where throughout 2019 the variety will keep getting larger, the amount will keep getting larger.”

Several distribution strategies already are planned following that first harvest, McCabe said. For instance, the development team has outfitted an Airstream trailer that will offer on-site neighborhood retail sales.

“One of our big goals is getting as much produce as we can out to The Villages’ restaurants, the assisted-living facilities, hospitals and things like that,” he said. “Residents also are going to have access to different retail outlets. They’ll be able to walk into a grocery-type store setting and buy directly from The Villages Grown.”

Also: The Villages Grown represents one of the highlights of considerable development activity taking place in the Southern Oaks region south of SR 44. Work will begin soon, for example, on Chitty Chatty Recreation Center in the Village of Chitty Chatty, south of Morse Boulevard and east of SR 44. The Developer recently received state permits for development of a 7,978-square-foot pool and deck area, including restrooms and changing areas, and amenities such as bocce, shuffleboard and cornhole courts and a postal facility on 1.4 acres. Once completed, Chitty Chatty residents and others in the Southern Trace region will have direct access to Lake Deaton Plaza just east of Rohan Recreation Center. Plans call for development of a SR 44 connectivity bridge that will connect Chitty Chatty to Rohan and Lake Deaton Plaza.

Also: As a complement to the Chitty Chatty development activity, the state recently approved plans for roadway improvements on Warm Springs Avenue from Florida’s Turnpike east and then curving north to the planned Morse Boulevard roundabout. To the south of the roundabout, the approved plans also call for installation of a traffic signal at the planned intersection of Warm Springs and Meggison Road, a major thoroughfare and multimodal system that will extend from Brownwood through Southern Oaks to The Villages of West Lake in Leesburg.

Also: The latest sign of lifestyle activity commenced over the last couple of weeks in the Village of Linden at the southeast corner of Warm Springs and CR 501. Workers installed not only the Linden entrance sign but also security cameras at the entry gate just east of the Corbin Trail roundabout that opened in early December. All of this is necessary since new home construction started over the past two weeks. However, entry into Linden still is restricted.

Also: Riverbend Recreation Center and the nearby Rupert Canine Park should be near completion as the first homeowners move into Linden. Now in the dry-in phase, interior framing is well underway at the Riverbend facility. And exterior trim work has been completed at the pavilion in the canine park.

Also: Recreation facility development remains a high priority for The Villages Developer in Southern Oaks. Just south of Linden, for instance, exterior paint work has started at the Swallowtail Recreation Area on Corbin Trail in the Village of Monarch Grove. Pool pavers are being set and interior finish work is well underway.

Also: Considerable recreational development continues at the Village of Marsh Bend north of Warm Springs and west of Florida’s Turnpike. Concrete masonry work has reached lintel-tie beam level at the Everglades Recreation Center at the Everglades Recreational Complex. The pool building is at the dry-in phase, with mechanical, electrical and plumbing work started.

Also: Just to the west of Everglades, pool trellis work is nearly complete at Cattail Recreation Area. To the north of Cattail, footers have been poured, the stem wall is at grade and the underground mechanical, electrical and plumbing work is well underway the Lowlands executive golf course facilities.

David R. Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.