Local Orthodontist Grows Smiles & Veggies In The Washington Shores Community Garden


ORLANDO – On social media, Dr. Andre Baptiste, a prominent local orthodontist, is known as AndretheFarmer to his more than 800,000 followers across Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. He spends his generous online presence sharing helpful, clever tips as well as insights about growing and maintaining a bountiful vegetable or fruit garden.

Spreading the benefits of farming is a passion that the husband and father of two sons enjoys sharing and teaching young people. He feels it is a way to help them become more self-sufficient and healthier. “People don’t know the right foods to eat. There aren’t many options outside of cheap calories,” Baptiste explains.

A longtime supporter of MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP), Baptiste now serves as an active Board Member overseeing the revitalization of the Washington Shores Community Garden (WSCG) along with the support of two other key community partners, the Washington Shores Presbyterian Church (WSPC), and Washington Shores Elementary School (WSES). During the past academic year, you could find Baptiste before school teaching students from the WSES Garden Club and the seniors from the WSPC how to grow food and discussing the numerous benefits of gardening.

It seems the exercise, sun, serotonin, gardening and fun interactions are serving both generations well. He’s even noticed that the elementary students truly enjoy their time in the garden, “On their first day at the garden they took home a plant in a pot,” he recalled.

He understands how gardening can be intimidating due to the misconceptions that growing a garden requires a large yard. A part of his mission is to reassure his students that anyone can grow a garden anywhere. “Our plan is to get people growing more produce, eating healthier, and helping them become more self-sufficient,” Baptiste shared.

During the bi-weekly 8a.m. sessions held at the WSCG, the educational aspects of gardening are highlighted. “The students as well as the seniors learn about gardening, science, and help one another during their early morning visits. Lessons range from: how plants grow, what they need to survive, the nutritional benefits, the different types of fruits and vegetables, sustainability, etc.” he said.

Although Baptiste grew up watching his father and maternal grandmother work in their gardens, he just started gardening seven years ago. The first trees he planted were avocado, mango and lychee trees in his backyard. Since then, he’s created a food forest, as he calls it.

Baptiste is a man who shares his heart globally and, particularly, locally to the community that he serves in various ways. Yet, at the core of his service is a focus on the health of those around him or just whoever is willing to listen and learn. One thing is for sure, you will indeed walk away better and more empowered.

As far as his expectations for the WSCG and the students, seniors and residents, he only wishes that they get the most from the program and apply the lessons learned from the intergenerational garden. He shared, “I want to build upon the legacy of Mr. Ed, the elderly resident and former overseer of the garden, he wanted the WSCG to produce a lot of healthy food that benefitted the well-being of the community. I also want it to be a place where everyone can connect and continue to take away something beneficial.”

Although gardening is not easy work it’s quite doable if you have a desire or passion for it. “There are hot days in the Florida sun, but reaping the harvest from gardening makes all the difference when it’s a labor of love.” He concluded our interview by saying, “If you have a window or a balcony, you can grow a garden.”

ABOUT Washington Shores Community Garden: In an effort to enhance human and environmental sustainability, the Washington Shores Community Garden was planted in September 2014 under the banner of MAN UP Mentoring, Inc.  To date, 100% of the harvest is donated to students, the elderly and underserved residents.

ABOUT MAN UP Mentoring, Inc.: MANUP Mentoring, Inc. is community-based non-profit 501c (3) charity organization primarily serving at-risk youth ages 11 through completion of high school or the equivalent across Metro Orlando, with a focus on delinquency prevention and intervention by providing social, educational, and mentoring services. Established in 2014 by Orlando natives, brother and sister duo Christopher and Samantha Wallace. Currently, it is managed by an Executive Director, contractors and a full-time staff of volunteers. It is overseen by a Board of Directors with more than 150 years of law enforcement and civilian experience, as well as advisors from the Orange County Public School System and social services.