Community garden offers food connection

            Imagine this: You take a basket to your garden and pick lettuce, tomatoes, celery, carrots and scallions. You take the ripe and delicious vegetables and create a salad for your family made of tasty and healthy ingredients.

            Sure, it’s simple. Yet most of us don’t do this. Even though we live in a major agricultural region, most of the produce we consume has been grown elsewhere and harvested before it is ripe and treated so it can endure the miles and days of travel to warehouses and on to supermarkets before it even makes it to our homes. These foods are often bland. Kids don’t want to eat these fruits and vegetables because there isn’t much taste to them. Heck, we don’t like these bland foods, either.

            Then there are the concerns about genetically modified seeds, chemicals and contamination. Add it all up, and many fruits and vegetables from the supermarket lose their appeal.

            It doesn’t have to be that way. Many people are reconnecting with their food. They are growing their own, even when they live in cities. They may grow in pots on their patios or convert their lawns to gardens. Many cities are providing community gardens where for a small fee people can rent a plot.

            In Santa Maria, options for gardening are growing. The City of Santa Maria is opening a new community gardening site at the Vocational Training Center. It will be available to residents as well as to VTC.

            The city’s first community garden was established in the 1970s on the site of the Mussell Senior Center. This site is undergoing some changes as Allan Hancock College gears up to use half of the space to teach Ag Science and community gardening classes. Some of the current gardeners and the city came up with a plan to move some of the gardeners to VTC over the next 14 months to make room for the college.

            Hancock will teach six new basic agricultural classes that can be transferred to a four-year college and several other short courses for anyone interested in gardening.

            Residents can take classes or get involved in the college’s new Friends of the Garden group that will help in farming, promoting agriculture and taking care of the community garden.

            Hancock is continuing its vineyard program, planting fruit trees, using a greenhouse and seeking involvement with high schools.

            The city is also looking into starting small community gardens in existing city parks, especially in the northern part of town.

            Other groups have started or are looking into starting community gardens as well. The Unity Church has started a garden in Orcutt. Crucified Life Church on south McClelland may a develop a 15,000 square foot lot into a type of People’s Garden where parishioners will grow vegetables to donate to a food bank or other organization.

If you’d like to see more community gardens, get involved with the Central Coast Green Team or with SB CAN, both of which encourage greater environmental stewardship in our area.

The Green Team will begin to plan a garden on a college plot with the help of community gardener Jon Anton at 11 a.m. on Sun., Mar. 10. If you’re interested, meet them at 910 S. Oakwood Drive, or contact Jeanne Sparks at [email protected] or (805) 739-1836.

Let us know your thoughts at the next SB CAN Housing, Open space and Transportation Committee meeting on Thurs., Mar. 14 at 7 p.m. at Rabobank, 1554 S. Broadway.

You could also let your elected officials know that you want to see more community gardens.

Published March 8, 2013 in the Santa Maria Times. Ken Hough is executive director of Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). He can be reached at [email protected]. Looking Forward runs in the Santa Maria Times every Friday, providing a progressive viewpoint on local issues.