By Amanda Cundiff, Forest Service Region 5 Partnership Coordinator and Lara Polansky, Forest Service Presidential Management FellowIn Vallejo, California, on a decommissioned Naval Shipyard called Mare Island, something good has emerged from hard times: a new community coalition to build and sustain a city garden. Home to over 110,000 individuals, Vallejo is known for being diverse, depressed, crime-ridden, and bankrupt. Since the Naval Shipyard closed and the recession hit, Vallejo has struggled with poverty, stretched city services, and troubled schools. Crime and poverty are high, and, perhaps as a result, Vallejo is a quintessential food desert.
Our coalition envisions a People’s Garden for Vallejo. The Garden will provide fresh produce to low-income residents and teach sustainable gardening practices. Coalition members each bring something vital to the project: volunteers to build and maintain the garden, low-income clients to benefit from vegetables and fresh eggs, and students to learn about nutrition and food production through action.
The lead partners in the Vallejo People’s Garden are:
Global Center for Success (www.globalcenterforsuccess.org) is a 501(c)(3) on Mare Island that provides supportive human services and programs to the homeless and needy. GCS is excited to start a garden right in its backyard to serve as an outdoor classroom, a community hub, and a source of free organic produce for its clients.
The Regional Office of the USDA Forest Service, located on Mare Island, employs over 200 people. The Forest Service will contribute volunteers and (eventually) land for a second garden. The convenient location of the Vallejo People’s Garden will provide an opportunity for employees to meet and work alongside our neighbors and have a healthy place to volunteer during lunch breaks and after work.
Betty Frank Senior Lunch Program is a 501(c)(3) feeding program that serves lunch daily in a community center, about 10 minutes from Mare Island in Vallejo. The coalition plans to provide fresh produce to this senior center’s kitchen and to arrange visits for seniors to tour and even volunteer in the garden. The drawn plans for the garden include handicapped-accessible raised beds that will be easy for seniors to reach. Additionally, teachers at Mare Island Elementary School across the street from the future garden site are excited about bringing students over for lessons in food production and nutrition.
Landscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional Office
To jump start these “shovel ready” projects, the Forest Service Region 5 Regional Office is competing for a grant from Nature’s Path Organics. A Nature’s Path grant would provide funds to purchase the materials, tools, and lumber to build raised beds, compost bins, a chicken house, bee hive, fencing, educational signs, rain barrels, and storage shed.
To VOTE for the “Vallejo People’s Garden”:
1. 1. Go to http://www.justmeans.com/contestidea?ideaid=NDUz and click on “VOTE”
2. 2. Create an account by giving your name, personal email address (Forest Service email address won’t work), and making up a password
3. 3. Check your email and click on the link to activate your account. You are now done voting for us!
Bonus points: You can add a message of support in the comment box.
Your votes and comments are the only way for us to demonstrate support for this project and convince Nature’s Path Organic to fund this project. The deadline for votes is May 31.
The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA. Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods. Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance. Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.