AV Elder Home Community Garden

by Cindy Wilder, June 1, 2016

One project that AV Foodshed has envisioned for a number of years is a community garden space in Anderson Valley. Thanks to the North Coast Opportunities Gardens Project and AV Elder Home, the garden is becoming a reality. The Elder Home Community Garden broke ground on Tuesday, May 17 on the Elder Home property next to the Senior Center in Boonville.

A couple of years ago Eddy Ferreyra, now a homegrown AV adult, also began developing an idea for a garden space in AV. He hooked up with Stephanie Logsden, the coordinator of NCO Gardens Project, and began working with the Gardens Project on other gardens around the county. That connection is the seed that is now sprouting at our Elder Home.

On Tuesday, May 10 the first meeting of potential gardeners and garden construction volunteers met at the Elder Home grounds to talk about what the garden would look like and what would be involved in making it a reality. Eddy, whose full name is Eriberto Ferreyra, went across the street to the Boonville Apartments where he has relatives living to remind people of the meeting. Two women came over to join the group. Eddy translated for them and when time came for self-introductions, they introduced themselves in Spanish. Stephanie and Eddy remember when, “We were at the Senior Center in hopes of finding the ideal site in Anderson Valley and saw Karen Ottoboni standing in the empty lot between the Senior Center and the current Elder Home house.” Their ensuing conversation with Karen is what eventually brought the Elder Home into the project. After much discussion and the formation of a community working group, Elder Home Board member Jill Hannum applied for and received a $9,000 grant, from Mendocino County Health and Human Services to get the project off the ground, or, in this case, into the ground.

The Elder Home board had already been in discussion with some community members about the formation of a garden for the elders as well as a way of connecting the Elder Home and the Senior Center with gardens and a path. The fact that they sit right next door to each other seems to call for this merger. Maureen Bowman had retired from the Elder Home Board a couple of years ago when she and I began talking about how we envisioned the garden space and how it could connect the Elder Home and Senior Center with a path, which would enable the elders to easily access the Senior Center for meals and activities. About the fact that it is now a community garden, as opposed to an elder garden, Maureen says, “I think the Community Garden is creating the connection in a much better way. The boards and staff of the two facilities could not have done it without the community.”

In order for the NCO Gardens Project to be involved, the garden needs to be a community garden. So that’s what the plan became. The community working group, which Maureen and I had begun, expanded and at about the same time the composition of the Elder Home Board changed somewhat to bring Brian Snelling, a newer board member, into the mix.

Brian has become an active Elder Home Board member on the committee. He is now the liaison from the ElderHome Board to the Senior Center Board. In their first joint effort an AV Lions Club tri-tip fundraiser happened last weekend at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville. This is the kind of collaboration between groups that makes Anderson Valley such a special place – a small community that comes together around causes that benefit us as a whole.

Another piece of this is that some of the community members who are signed up for plots in the community garden are going to be gardening there in order to grow produce to enter into the Mendocino County Fair. The Fair takes place in Boonville at the County Fairgrounds, which sits adjacent to the Elder Home. The Senior Center next door is on County property and is used at fair time as one of the entrances.

Andy Balestracci is a member of the community working group, lending his expertise in a variety of ways. He and Jeff Pugh are now working together on the plumbing and irrigation. Says Andy, “I’m really pleased to see the fruition of a dream I’ve had for awhile, of a wide diversity of the community coming together over gardening and food.“

Shifting our attention back to the NCO Gardens Project, Stephanie and Arianna, her Health Corps assistant, have been coming over from Ukiah to meet with the community group for a few months. Stephanie began with the Gardens Project three years ago as a Health Corps assistant to Miles Gordon, who was the coordinator at that time. The Gardens Project has now expanded into Lake County, with a second coordinator, Ava Ryan. Stephanie shared her feelings about the importance of our project, “Community gardens in areas such as Anderson Valley that don’t have the local resources that a city like Ukiah has are special because to be successful they have to be driven by a group of dedicated community members.”

Arianna Chiechi has been working with North Coast Opportunities this past year as the Hunger Prevention Coordinator. In that capacity, she is also a support person for the Gardens Project. She has enjoyed the experience of assessing community needs, seeing community gardens come together, and learning a new skill set in actually making the gardens happen. Watching her and Stephanie hoist around the heavy timbers for the raised garden beds, then drill them together at lightning speed, attests to the fact that they have installed many community gardens.

The week before last, on the final day of the raised bed construction at the Elder Home, I had the pleasure of again meeting the Health Corps assistant from last year standing in the vacant Elder Home lot. Jessica Ruff, who is still working with NCO in a different capacity, had come back over the hill to help get the raised beds finished. On that day, it was mostly Eddy, Stephanie, Arianna and Jessica that were doing the hoisting and drilling to finish up the work that the community volunteers had begun in the two previous days.

Now the raised beds have been hoisted into their final positions and are awaiting more volunteer labor to attach the gopher proofing to the bottoms. Then the soil will be hauled in and the beds will be ready for planting. When I last stopped by, Janet Boonyagarn and Brian Snelling were mapping out the in-ground part of the garden, which was tilled by John Leal who brought his tractor two days in a row to work the ground. This is the part of the garden in which Janet would like to have her plot.

The AV Elder Home Community Garden project now has about 20 people signed up for garden plots, which will be ready for planting in June. If you would like to be involved, please call Stephanie at 462-1958 or to get on our email list send a message to avfoodshed@gmail.com.

The next three workdays are:

Wednesday June 1, 9am-3pm (or when finished) - gopher-proofing the raised beds (need gloves, wire clippers, and heavy duty staple guns).

Thursday June 2, 8am-3pm (or when finished) - irrigation for the raised beds (need gloves, PVC cutters, trenching shovels, and pick axes).

Monday June 6, 9am-3pm (or when finished) - shoveling the soil into the beds (need gloves, wheel barrows, and shovels).

Your help during any part of these three days will be much appreciated.

Besides volunteering to help and/or having a garden plot, you can also get involved in the project by honoring a loved one with a bench engraved with their name. If this interests you, you can get more info by emailing AV Foodshed with a message to that effect.

The project is also in need of redwood for building a table and benches. Those who have a contact for donated redwood are also encouraged to contact us by email or call Stephanie.

The Connecting With Local Food Series is organized by the AV Foodshed (email above) to encourage people to grow and buy local food by creating portraits of local farmers, gardeners, store owners, cafes, caterers, food distributors, and restaurants that feature local food. The next article will feature the Bewildered Pig restaurant in Navarro where local ingredients are a focal part of the dinner menu.

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