Larson garden gets green light
THREE-YEAR-OLD Axel Rios holds one of the plants destined to be planted at Larson Park. Members of the Springs Community Garden Coalition gathered Saturday for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
The Sonoma nonprofit Nuestra Voz got approval from the county Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to move forward with a community garden in Larson Park.
While Nuestra Voz will be the lead agency on the garden, the project includes a wide variety of community partners, who all joined together with the public to plant the first seed during a ceremony in the park on Saturday.
Larson Park has long been a blight on the community, where graffiti, drug dealing and gang activity commonly occur. Community leaders in the Springs envision another path for the park, one where families can socialize and grow healthy fruits and vegetables together. The coalition of supporters behind the effort included iGrow Sonoma, Community Action Partnership, Sonoma Ecology Center, St. Joseph Health System, Wild Thyme Restaurant, Petaluma Arroyo Garden, Sonoma Charter School, Flowery School, Transition Sonoma Valley, LIA-Project, Redwood Empire Food Bank, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, the Springs Redevelopment Advisory Committee, Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, Sonoma Materials, Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, Burbank Housing, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Nathan Ohrbach Foundation, Sonoma County Department of Health Services and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, the Nuestra Voz and the Springs Community Garden Coalition. When they jointly requested permission to start a community garden, the Board of Supervisors enthusiastically supported the idea on Tuesday.
"The Larson Park Community Garden will be a beacon for the entire county. Not only will it grow incredible healthy foods for the local community, it will continue to connect people together, as it already has, through the development process. The Springs Community Garden Coalition deserves huge kudos for bringing this vision to life. I am so proud our county was able to make this happen," said 1st District Supervisor Valerie Brown.
The county agreed to give Nuestra Voz a one-year license agreement to begin building the garden on the county land. Nuestra Voz will be the lead agency for the Springs Community Garden Coalition and will be responsible for coordinating and managing garden activities.
While the first seed was ceremoniously planted on Saturday, it will be months before the garden can truly bloom. Although almost all of the labor will be done by volunteers, Nuestra Voz estimates it will cost $30,000 in materials and thus far the organization has only raised $13,000 for the project. Alejandra Cervantes, executive director of Nuestra Voz, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting the Valley's Latino community, said they are working to develop streams of fundraising for the project, but have received generous support from the Regional Parks Department and local businesses. Regional Parks is also working with the Springs Garden Coalition to create a business plan to keep the garden thriving for years to come.
"The idea of a community garden is to combine all of the talents of the communities. We have a lot of expertise here," Cervantes said.
When it is completed, the garden will consist of 950 square feet of planting space spread out across 23 planter boxes. The goal is to have 40 to 60 families involved with maintaining the garden, who will be able to take fresh, organic produce home to enjoy. Cervantes said the families have not yet been finalized, but there are already interested participants taking workshops in gardening and composting to be prepared to help others get the gardens started.
"Definitely we have a lot of families interested," said Cervantes. Many came to the event on Saturday to sign up to take part in the garden project.
In addition to the garden, Nuestra Voz will offer healthy cooking classes to teach gardeners how to make the most of their harvest. While a gate will be placed around the fence to prevent vandalism, organizers are hopeful it will become a space for the community to socialize outdoors and share in the bounty that is produced. To learn more or donate to the garden project, contact Nuestra Voz at 939-9369.