And Now A Garden Goes To College

LA MESA -- With the snip of the scissors, an intergenerational garden at Cuyamaca College was officially dedicated Tuesday with a “vine-cutting” ceremony led by county, college and college district officials, who touted the site’s educational and health benefits to East County.

Funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, the garden designed gratis by La Mesa landscape architect George Mercer is a 1/3-acre plot between the Child Development Center and the Water Conservation Garden on the Rancho San Diego campus. With an already flourishing pumpkin patch with some 150 pumpkin plants, the garden is well on its way to producing a bountiful crop of produce at a site made possible by not only by the efforts of eight senior volunteers – the “Gardening Grannies” --  but several community groups and vendors.

For the children, ages 2-5, the intent is to teach good nutrition to a population accustomed to diets heavy on processed foods. For the seniors, it’s a healthy outdoor activity and an opportunity to connect with kids.

“What a wonderful concept – our older generation working with and teaching the youngest generation who are here at Cuyamaca College in our early-childhood program,” said Chancellor Cindy L. Miles, who joined President Mark J. Z

acovic in holding the length of vine cut by East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Not only do the generations interact, our youngest ones get to know about gardening and teamwork and about healthy eating. With today’s problems of childhood obesity and our kids not knowing where our foods come from – this is a very beautiful opportunity to address these issues.”

A garden with synergy

Zacovic called the 1 1/2-year project a “collaborative vision” that served as an interdisciplinary learning opportunity for students enrolled in several college programs, including child development, ornamental horticulture, and surveying.

“It was really a wonderful synergy that has come together,” he said about the garden, which when complete will feature citrus and other fruit trees, a variety of vegetable and flower beds, vines with pumpkins and melons, ornamentals, herbs, and more. “Cuyamaca College has a strong reputation as a leader in sustainability and this garden is a perfect addition to this.”

Jacob hailed the garden as an example of the county’s commitment to intergenerational ties, starting back in 2001 when the Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of an intergenerational program coordinator.

“The county was the first in the country to set an example with an intergenerational program,” she said. “There is lots to be lots to be learned from folks who have lived for a few years, and never before have o

ur kids needed that kind of teaching as much as they do now.”

 Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione said the garden carries an important message of a lifelong practice of health and wellness, noting that studies have shown that three lifestyle choices – poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking –  have contributed to  more than 60 percent of the deaths in East County.

“There is great value in the lessons being taught to these children about the importance of making healthy choices,” he said. “Many of these children will go back to their families and begin having these conversations.”

Macchione said when the county launched a program to improve the health of its residents, a decision was made to go out to the communities and nurture efforts such as Cuyamaca College’s Intergenerational Garden.

“Projects like this make a good investment,” he said. “It’s communities and government working together to make ourselves healthier and smarter.”

In addition to the young gardeners and their senior citizen partners, others joining in on the official launching were community partners and vendors who have donated time and materials: Dixieline/ProBuild; HydroScape, A.D.D. Landscaping, The Fence Doctor, Xcel Remodeling, Inc., La Mesa landscape architect George Mercer and others.

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Tags: Cuyamaca College, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, garden, intergenerational garden

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