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New Fall Menu: Peace & Carrots — Community Gardeners Get in on the Ground Floor

October 27, 2009
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Rent your own garden plot at the Peace & Carrots Community Garden for $40 for the year, or $25 for six months.

Rent your own garden plot at the Peace & Carrots Community Garden for $40 for the year, or $25 for six months.

A church and a community that sows together, grows together.

This is just one of the aims of the La Verne Church of the Brethren’s gardening group that has broken ground on a roughly 50-foot-by-150-foot parcel of land that once served as a pre-school playground and Nature Park.

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Dedicated September 6, 2009, with an official ribbon-cutting scheduled for Nov. 22, the Peace & Carrots Community Garden will also promote stewardship of the earth, provide fresh organic food for the growers and their neighbors, and present any surplus to local food banks.

“People in our neighborhood are hungry,” said Michael Wolfsen, chair of the community garden committee. “If you go down to the food banks, you’ll find there is an 80% greater population going than in previous years, and they have no fresh food.”

After the Nature Park’s playground equipment became riddled with termites, the church decided that a better or higher use for the land was to convert it to a community garden, dividing the land into 30 4 x12 feet plots, plus four raised container plots for easy use and access by the physically challenged.

Rent for a garden plot, available on a first-come, first-served basis, is $40 a year, or $25 for six months.

To defray the cost of preparing the land and the soil for planting, the Church received a grant from the La Verne Land Conservancy and individual donations from contributors who have purchased commemorative bricks that have since been laid down by garden workers as part of the garden’s entry. Tom Day Tree Service in Pomona donated the mulch and several students from both the University of La Verne and Azusa Pacific University were involved in the garden’s preliminary construction. The congregation of gardeners also has been selling eco-friendly, re-usable “Peace & Carrots” grocery bags for $5 each to raise additional funds.

Most of the hard work has already been done for you, thanks to Brittney Alarcon operating the roto-tiller.

Most of the hard work has already been done for you, thanks to Brittney Alarcon operating the roto-tiller.

“Gardening is the backbone of our church,” said Wolfsen, an expert tomato grower. “The Church really believes in the stewardship of the land. We don’t have to talk about that to other people; we get to show them – how to take care of the land and how to run this garden in the most inexpensive way we can.”

Each plot has been roto-tilled, blended with amendment and other organic matter, and equipped with a water-stingy irrigation system, installed by Jonescape in Claremont. There are also plans to install a solar array to power the sprinkler system’s timer and night lighting systems.

The church has done so much in preparing the garden that it seems members need only drop a few seeds in the ground to be successful. It’s not quite that easy, Wolfsen insisted.

“We have a contract that people sign,” Wolfsen explained. “You have to take care of your plot and help maintain the whole garden.” As part of the contract, community gardeners also agree to donate a portion of their harvest to the food bank.

The Peace and Community Garden will also offer gardening and nutrition classes. Two of the garden plots have been reserved for Head Start classes as well.

“This is a terrific opportunity to teach kids that vegetables are just as good as candy,” Wolfsen said, with Halloween around the corner.

The lesson of enjoying fresh, organic produce hasn’t been lost on older participating students, either. Some University of La Verne gardeners are transforming their patch of earth into a salsa garden by growing bell peppers. Some students in the same group are chronicling their green efforts by producing a television script and making a documentary.

The Church of the Brethren's community garden has paved the way for local residents to begin growing their own fresh organic produce.

Church of the Brethren community gardener Chris Meek has helped pave the way for local residents to begin growing their own fresh organic produce.

“If young kids see us out here making a difference, it’s something they’ll grow into as well,” said ULV’s Amanda Flores. “I know when I saw older people active in the community helping others, it encouraged me.”

Even church members not directly involved in the garden will benefit. With the church’s active kitchen, no doubt fresh herbs and other fresh ingredients from the community garden will make their way into meals that the church serves. The kitchen will also divert its green waste to make compost to complete the organic cycle.

“After a while, we’ll be able to produce our own compost, so it’s going to be a lovely, lovely process,” said Wolfsen.

For some, the pinnacle of the process will come in the eating of freshly grown produce.

“It tastes better than anything you can buy,” Wolfsen said. “Tomatoes that you buy in the grocery store taste a little like Styrofoam after you’ve had a home-grown tomato.”

For others, the pinnacle will be in the giving.

“I think it’s just the joy of being able to take care of yourself,” Wolfsen added. “It’s the whole thing about give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him forever. It’s the joy of ‘Look, I did it myself.’”

People who want the satisfaction of doing it themselves and growing their own food can get in on the ground floor by calling either Michael Wolfsen at (909) 596-2223 (mwolfsen@aol.com) or Barbara Smythe at (909) 392-4287 (blsmythe@earthlink.net).

The Peace & Carrots Community Garden is located on 5th & E Street, behind the Church of the Brethren on 5th.

Garden is America's No. 1 exercise and hobby for young and old alike, as ULV students Brittney Alarcon, Jonathan Frankera, Kristine Mathisen and Amanda Flores demonstrate with their garden tools.

Gardening is America's No. 1 form of exercise and a great hobby for young and old alike, as ULV students Brittney Alarcon, Jonathan Frankera, Kristine Mathisen and Amanda Flores demonstrate standing alongside their garden tools.

 

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