City Approves, Funds Community Garden Start-Up Effort

LAKE MURRAY – La Mesa took the first substantive steps Tuesday night toward establishing a community garden operation. If the project continues and moves to fruition, local residents may soon have the opportunity to rent space and begin growing their own food. The City Council agreed to spend $15,000 to finance organizational work toward establishing a public garden operation on 2.2 acres of open land located across the street from Maryland Avenue Elementary School on Maryland Avenue.
The city staff studied the project and visited other community gardens operating in San Diego County.
They estimate it will cost about $218,000 to create the garden. Efforts are underway to apply for grants to finance this construction.
Once the gardens are built, local residents will be able to rent space and volunteer organizations are being sought to help manage the facility. The land is owned by a local family willing to give the city a long-term lease to the property at what Mayor Art Madrid characterized as a nominal fee. (Site pictured above).
City staff said rents for the plots are expected to cover watering costs.
There are 29 community gardens operating in San Diego, and, if this first project is successful, other locations could be sought in La Mesa. City Council member Ernest Ewin mentioned Collier Park as a location with a water source and open space that could be applied to a similar operation.
The community garden movement, like the Farmer’s Market trend, has gained momentum across the country with increased concern for the source and growing conditions of our food supply.
Jill Richardson, a La Mesa resident, and a food supply expert, recently returned from a trip to Cuba where she was chronicling that country’s re-engineering of its food supply after it lost easy access to inexpensive Russian oil supplies. (Her report from Cuba can be seen here: http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/3582/cuba-diaries-day-1)
Richardson said one community garden obviously can’t produce enough food to be a significant source for a city of 55,000, but gardens like this help families and have had a number of other benefits, the most significant of which is the sense of community they engender.
“You get a group of people who live in the same town, often the same neighborhood, sometimes from different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages,’’ Richardson said, “and they all garden together and it becomes an important community building exercise.’’
She said it wakes people up to environmental issues, the source of their food and teaches how much work it takes to grow food.
These garden operations, she said, often mix flowers and food and attract pollinators, promote clean air and water and send a great environmental message to the community and often become a center for classes to help other home gardeners.
“If the gardeners are permitted to use pesticides, then that’s a negative impact we all share too,’’ she said.

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