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Trinity Gardens – Open Hearts & Dirty Fingernails
updated: Oct 29, 2011, 9:00 AM

By Billy Goodnick

Something wonderful happens when people who care about other people meet in a garden. In this case, a handful of Trinity Lutheran Church members are plowing forward with their vision to grow food for the needy, teach kids about healthy eating, and provide a space where locals learn to cultivate hand-grown food.

Earlier this week, I was standing at the south end of the church's parking lot at 909 North La Cumbre Road, getting the grand tour from Judy Sims -- a legend in Santa Barbara's school gardening movement -- and Linda Vogel, two of the dynamos behind Trinity Gardens.

Trinity Garden Master Plan

According to their map of the future garden, this flat, stubbly, gopher-pocked plateau will house a varmint-proofed one-acre vegetable garden divided into 33 plots. Other features include a fishpond, tool shed, shade structure, propagation bed, and composting station. Just down the east-facing slope, fruit will blossom and ripen in the orchard. Along the perimeter, they envision a buffer of California native plants used by the Chumash who lived off this land.

Trinity Garden will be another shiny bead on Santa Barbara's sustainability necklace, joining the existing church-based garden and food distribution efforts of Mesa Harmony Garden at Holy Cross, Five Loaves Farms on 3-acres at Santa Barbara Community Church, and Grace Lutheran.

The garden sits on prime real estate, so it's gratifying to see this land being put to such a high-minded and fundamental use. Looking south from this plateau at the ankles of the Santa Ynez Mountains, a small forest of native oaks and a magnificent, cathedral-like California pepper tree obscure a view of the Santa Barbara's outer State Street commercial district. Above the canopies float the Channel Islands. Pivot north and the wildness of jutting sandstone faces and hard chaparral carry the eye to La Cumbre Peak.

Nice place to rest after an afternoon of honest soil toiling.

Like I said, it's not a garden just yet. With the help of three additional church members that include Katie Szopa, Karen Wilson, and landscape contractor Adam Graham, Trinity Garden takes the big leap between planning and doing with their groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, November 6, at 11:45 a.m. If you attend (and you're most welcome to) you'll not only hear about the Garden's long range vision and immediate needs, but if you call ahead and tell them you're coming, there'll be a free healthy lunch waiting for you.

The garden is a wonderful addition to a site that's just as much a de facto community center as it is a place of fellowship and worship. Trinity generously shares its campus for non-church programs such as Little Angels Preschool; Food from the Heart, who use the commercial certified kitchen to prepare and

distribute meals; Boy Scouts; drug and alcohol counseling programs; and Post- partum Education for Parents, aka PEP (I used to teach the baby diapering workshop!).

96-year-old church-member Jimmy Maddalon was at clean-up day hauling oleander branches to the chipper.

But before anyone tills rich compost into the dirt or transplants their Mr. Stripey heirloom tomatoes, there are troglodytic gophers, wavenous wabbits, and unwelcomed scavengers to deal with. That's what the first fund raising campaign will be Plank-by-Plank fencing project. You can help by donating $10 for a single plank, or adopting a foot-long section for $30. (The steel post-supported fence includes a two-foot deep underground skirt of high-tech mesh to keep the gophers from finding their way back in.)

There's an aspect of Trinity Garden's model that really impresses me. A number of the plots will be available for locals interested in growing food for their own use, with their rental fee helping to offset the cost of water and day-to-day operational expenses. But a number of beds will be communally tended by folks who just want to spend some time working outdoors, meeting like-minded gardeners, and knowing that the shiny fruits (and edible roots) of their labor are helping others in the community.

Adam Grant, owner of IWL, Inc. landscaping company, and Karen Wilson, the catalyst for the project.

As community interest in Trinity Garden expands, there'll be lots more to get involved. The garden will need people to swing hammers, craft rustic benches, bring the space to life with art, and attend enlightening classes and workshops. Like any worthwhile, volunteer-driven venture, success depends on the vision, energy, kindness, and good luck of those who step up. We hear unsettling stories about how our uber-electronic culture is fracturing the fabric of communities, but everywhere I look, Santa Barbara seems to be bucking the trend, bringing the community closer together with big hearts, big plans, and dirty finger nails. And now we have Trinity Gardens.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

To attend the ground breaking ceremony, contact Judy Sims at judygardens@gmail.com or 805.637.3201.


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