From 2007 to 2017: A decade of community gardens and the future promises more!

Since the Gardens Project was founded in 2007, we’ve worked with the people of Mendocino and Lake Counties to develop 45 community and school gardens. That’s an average of 4.5 gardens a year! A lot has changed since the first community gardens in Ukiah, but the need to increase food security in both counties is still there and the work continues…

Setting up the drip irrigation at the Willits Head Start Preschool Garden

In Mendocino County, there is a network of over 75 school and community gardens. In Ukiah alone, there are 12 community gardens available for our families with a combined total of more than 300 garden plots feeding over 3,000 people that produce over 28,000 pounds (14 tons!) of food a year. Preschool Gardens had a come-back this year with a new partnership between The Veteran’s Organic Garden and Peach Tree Head Start in Ukiah, and Leaders from Preschools trained to incorporate the garden into their lesson plans.

We’ve reached a milestone in our area of waiting lists on the existing gardens becoming shorter than they used to be and those wanting to grow their own food are getting the opportunity to do so. Our focus in Mendocino has shifted from development to continued sustainability of existing gardens. We welcome a new AmeriCorps VISTA member to our team, Sarah Marshall. She’ll be working with the garden network to provide seasonal workshop opportunities and facilitating collaborative meetings between the leaders of all community gardens.

At the end of our 10th year, we are also giving a warm send-off to our founder, Miles Gordon, and our Mendocino Coordinator, Stephanie Logsdon. Miles and his partner are planning to engage in volunteer work with refugees. Stephanie is heading to Latin America for language learning and will volunteer with NGOs with similar missions to the Gardens Project along the way. We’ve always said that we have no gardens, but rather we’ve helped the community create 45 of their own gardens. Our staff will be continuing the tradition of giving the power to the people!

A Woman Powered Workday Building Raised Beds at Zion Baptist Church in Clearlake

In Lake County, the excitement of local food access grows at an exponential rate. We are fortunate to have funding for new garden development, workshops and leadership training in Lake County from the USDA’s Community Food Projects grant. In only the first year of this grant, three new gardens in Clearlake have been established, and a fourth garden in Middletown has been planned and we are ready to start construction as soon as the weather permits. They are the first community gardens in these towns and residents are thrilled to have the space to grow their own food! Joining our Lake Coordinator, Ava Ryan, will be another AmeriCorps VISTA member starting in February of 2017. The next year will bring more gardens, more new workshop offerings, and a larger network of community and school gardens!

We’d like to give a special thanks to all who supported us in our Spring 2016 Fundraising Campaign, “Let’s E.A.T.!” You helped us raise over $15,000 to support our programs this year. What did that money go towards? You funded 6 new community gardens ($13,000), 5 Leadership Trainings ($1,000), and 5 Community Workshops ($1,000). WOW! Your support has made a tremendous impact.

If you ever drive past a community garden and admire the beauty of the tall corn & sunflowers, smile seeing a family working together to harvest buckets of tomatoes and chiles to provide a year’s worth of homemade salsa, or are overjoyed to hear a new gardener speaking enthusiastically about their first year of growing vegetables to feed their children nutritious fresh food: Remember that it’s all because of your continued support to the Gardens Project.

We want to continue to expand access to homegrown food to all: Make a Donation to the Gardens Project this winter so we can continue to empower community one garden at a time in 2017!

¡Muchísimas Gracias a todos!

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