Op-Ed: Growing Food and Community
By Chauncey Gardener
This post is the second in what we hope will be a series by different gardeners about community gardening in Santa Barbara. It follows “SOS Yanonali Community Garden!”
There’s a pot with beet soup simmering on my stove that has beets, onion, and garlic from our Yanonali garden plot. I decided to rent a plot and start growing my own food two years ago when my daughter turned out to be one of those picky eater toddlers. Since then, she has eaten her very first sugar snap pea, carrot, lettuce, and kale at Yanonali Community Garden. No beets yet, but I am not giving up hope. I am so impressed with how much my child has learned about the soil, plants, and insects, and how to care for them. Earlier this spring, I watched my little gardener pick out her own tomato plant, choose a spot for it and plant it herself. I see her pride when we check on it and admire how nicely it has grown.
My kid gardener has made friends with many other community gardeners of all ages. One of them taught her how to harvest worm castings, another one showed us how he collects seeds and teaches us plant names in Spanish. A gardener who has all kinds of beautiful flowers shows my daughter how to cut them and always lets us take a small bouquet from her plot. One family has a little play corner on their plot where all kids at the garden are welcome to dig and play in the dirt.
At a community garden, you grow food and a community – I love that. How much it means to me I realized when we were told that the entire first row of Yanonali plots would be demolished in order to straighten the fence as part of the renovation project for Eastside Neighborhood Park. I am very thankful that a group of gardeners came together to advocate for Yanonali Community Garden and that our petition has been so successful. We need to make sure Santa Barbara’s two community gardens – Rancheria and Yanonali – are still there when today’s children are ready to rent a plot and grow their own food. And while we’re at it, let’s ask the city to help us create more community gardens!
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