Grown Your Own
By Catherine Coburn
Thursday, April 29, 1999
One of the great things about food writing is the infinite nature of the subject. Loquation, loquation, loquation. Everybody talks about it, because pretty much everybody I know, or want to know, loves to eat. If your idea of participating in how you eat--by growing some of your own food--has seemed a daunting impossibility, there are a couple of interesting options out there that may just snag your interest.
If your postage stamp yard or fog zone setting or any-color-other-than-green thumbs have discouraged your agrarian spirit, it could be time to think again. Over at Monterey Peninsula College, a group of folks has, for the last couple of years, grown and harvested real, honest-to-God tomatoes. And pole beans, peas, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, and just about anything else you can think of. In this sense, gardening is a lot like the restaurant business (location, location, location) and the Organic Community Garden at MPC is situated in a warm, protected area, perfect for growing a wide variety of vegetables. And the cool news is that it''s not too late to claim your plot.
"Actually, we refer to them as raised beds," says gardening guru Sandra Forman, an organic gardening instructor at MPC. "A group of us started getting together back in ''97, gathered up some recycled materials and built the beds. The idea is that the community builds the garden, and the garden builds community. We thought at first that it would appeal to people who didn''t have enough space to garden. But it also appeals to people who don''t feel like they have enough experience or information about gardening. The Community Garden offers a way to get the kind of information you don''t get in books, by sharing with other people."
The core group is made up of 15-or-so enthusiasts. "We have a broad range of people that participate; some families with children, older people, and people with disabilities," Forman continues, "with 32 spaces in all." Bumper crops have yielded enough produce to share amongst themselves, and with the community.
Patti Kennedy is another participant whose home freezer has benefited--and then some. Meals On Wheels was the recent beneficiary of her excess of leeks. "The kind of sharing that goes on really takes me back to the ''60s," she comments, "when there might be 20 people there, tending their gardens on a Saturday afternoon. And you can always work out a deal with someone to water your plants if you''re taking a vacation."
Other community gardens have sprung up elsewhere, the handiwork of another group. Cynthia Jordan is president of the advisory board of Master Gardeners, a branch of the UC Cooperative Extension that was developed to provide resources of gardening expertise to the community. By committing to a series of 16 intensive classes held on Saturdays in Monterey and Santa Cruz, passing an exam, completing advanced training, and fulfilling 50 hours of community service, Master Gardener certification is awarded--often to those who had little or no former gardening experience. "From there, they turn right around and give back what they''ve learned to the community," says Jordan.
For more information, phone 763-8007, Master Gardener Hot Line; 372-5429, Sandra Forman, MPC Community Garden. cw