While growing your own food has many benefits, creating a vegetable garden is, without a doubt, a lot of work. Rather than enduring the long, lonely hours in your own backyard coaxing a few vegetables from the ground, you can now join one of several community gardens scattered throughout Santa Fe. At these gardens, you can work on a small plot of your own alongside your neighbors, share a larger plot or work with volunteers to create a harvest ready for donating to local food banks and shelters.
In 2009, the City Parks Division started the Santa Fe Community Gardens project with two gardens: Frenchy's Garden in Frenchy's Field on Agua Fría Street at Osage Avenue, and Maclovia Park Garden on Maclovia Street at Gallegos Drive. A third garden, Sunny Slope Garden on Aliso Street off Sicomorro Street in the Casa Solana neighborhood, went up last year. Fabian Chavez, director of the City Parks Division, oversees the project with considerable community support.
Plans for another garden to open this year, in Alto Park for the La Madera and Barrio La Canada neighborhoods, have been put on hold because of budget constraints. "It costs around $10,000 to put in a water meter, that's the biggest problem right now for the Alto Park Garden," garden liaison Jessie Esparza of the City Parks Division said. A parks bond extension for funding new projects is one possible source for the funds for a new garden in Alto Park in the future, which city residents would vote on in an upcoming election.
Members who join the Santa Fe Community Gardens pay $15 at the beginning of the season for a plot; at the end of the season water costs are added up and any additional necessary funds are then collected from participants. Esparza said both Sunny Slope and Maclovia Park gardens are already full, although sometimes members share plots. Neighborhood residents can contact her directly at 955-2106 for information about openings. Also check out the new website, www.santafecommunitygardens.org
The Railyard Park (Guadalupe Street at Paseo de Peralta and Cerrillos Road) also boasts a community food garden. The entire park is a "learning garden," supported by volunteers organized by the park's Railyard Stewards, a nonprofit organization based on New York's Central Park Conservancy. The food garden is used as a teaching tool for school groups, individuals and organizations, and the harvest is usually donated either to the schools that work the soil or to local food banks. The Railyard Stewards also support a "waffle garden" located next to the park's grassy-covered performance green. During the planting and growing season, everyone in the community is invited to the garden from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays to help work the soil and learn about high-desert planting and gardening. From 1 to 3 p.m. on April 12, organic grain farmer Linda Prim leads a hands-on workshop at the waffle garden titled "Growing Your Own Grain," which will highlight the historical roots and current grain-production practices throughout the state. Follow-up workshops in the fall will concentrate on the harvesting, milling and cooking of grains. Visit http://www.railyardpark.org/programs
for more details abouteducational programs, volunteer opportunities, and donations.
The Santa Fe Community Farm in Agua Fría is another option for donating harvests. Owned by John Stephenson, it's been a working farm dedicated to sustainable agriculture and charitable giving for more than 60 years. It's now run as a nonprofit corporation by Carolyn Stephenson (owner of the now-closed Mission Café).
The 12.5-acre farm offers volunteers who work the garden from planting to harvest the opportunity to learn about sustainable organic agriculture as well as the depth of need for hunger relief in our own community. Much of the harvest is donated to several organizations including Kitchen Angels, The Food Depot, St. Elizabeth's Shelter, St. John's Soup Kitchen and others. Later this summer the farm will offer compost for sale, as well as operate a small fruit stand.
Stephenson also derives support for the farm through Charitable Community Supported Agriculture. Similar to CSAs in which individual members pay in advance for a share of the harvest, the added charitable component means the membership also includes faith-based and civic organizations that benefit from the harvest, as well as individual member/donors. Visit http://www.santafecommunityfarm.org
for more information.
The youth-oriented community building group Earth Care also sponsors a community garden, this one on Hopewell Street at Third Street on a privately owned, undeveloped vacant lot. So far, the garden has been an informal collaborative project between the organization and the neighborhood, with Earth Care serving as the fiscal agent, providing staff members for oversight and its mobile tool shed, which is also available at the city's gardens. According to Bianca Sopoci-Belknap, sometime this year there will be more formal membership rules based on the city's garden model. If you're interested in participating, contact Earth Care at 983-6896 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On the south end of town, the Milagro Community Garden off Rodeo Road near Sam's Club is a volunteer-run garden first created in 1997. Classes, a tool shed and some soil amendments and seeds are all provided to members; 10 x 16 plots are currently available for $25 per year plus a one-time $30 fee when first joining (scholarships are available).
Milagro, like most of the other community gardens, requires all gardeners to use organic methods. They are currently calling for volunteers on Thursday, April 14 to help build a hoop house for seed starts. An open house and tour will be held on Saturday, April 30. Email email@example.com for more information and directions.
Out in dry, windy Eldorado, where gardening is as much a test of fortitude as knowledge, the El Dorado School Community Garden flourishes with the kind of active membership the neighborhood is known for. Located behind the Community School on Avenida Torreon, the garden is the product of collaboration between the school, Santa Fe County Master Gardeners, Earthworks Institute and the Youth Conservation Corps. Individual plots ($35 plus a one-time fee of $30) are 4 feet by 8 feet in the 1.5-acre garden; the first all-gardeners workday in Eldorado is Saturday, April 9, and a greenhouse has been approved for building this summer. Visit http://www.eldoradoschoolcommunitygarden.com
for more information.
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