Growing Food and Community in The Bay Area
Community farms and gardens are popping up throughout Silicon Valley. Though each project may be driven by different goals, they all cultivate connections in the local community and enable residents of our densely populated urban region to discover and share in the Valley’s agricultural roots.
Grow-Your-Own Community Gardens
Many community gardens are plots of land that have been subdivided for use by individuals who grow their own crops and tend their gardens independently. In San Jose alone, there are almost 22 acres of community gardens amongst 18 different plots ranging in size from a tenth of an acre to three acres. These plots generally have long waiting lists of people hoping to gain access to a piece of the garden. Check out your city website for more information and to get on a waitlist.
Growing and Sharing with Community
The Gilroy Demonstration Garden takes a different approach. With a motto of “Growing Community One Seed at a Time,” their three-quarter-acre “edible classroom” in downtown Gilroy is one large garden tended by volunteers who take home a portion of the harvest. They also offer educational programs and opportunities for local college students to intern and learn about farming techniques and soil health.
Learning, Farming and Community Engagement
With even broader goals than community gardens, community farms such as Veggielution in East San Jose and Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale provide community building through educational programs, volunteer opportunities and access to the farm’s harvest. Full Circle Farm is a surprising 11 acres in the heart of Silicon Valley, barely a mile from the new Apple Campus. The volunteers I met were diverse in age but all equally happy to be packaging up farm-fresh vegetables for customers. Fiona Ellis, who has been volunteering there for four years, described the value of volunteering as “filling in gaps” for people by “connecting them to the land and also to the people of the community in which they live.” As a bonus, the volunteers can take home surplus produce.
Veggielution describes their primary mission as connecting people through food and farming. They have a core group of volunteers that assist the full-time farm manager and her staff with the 3.9 acres of farmland. Veggielution’s programming covers three areas: youth programming, professional development and food entrepreneurship and community engagement. The latter can be seen in action on the first Saturday of each month, when the community can volunteer in the garden, take gardening or cooking classes, engage in art projects, practice yoga and buy produce from the farm stand.
Teaching Community to Grow at Home
Also based in San Jose is another type of community garden project: La Mesa Verde, a garden-at-home program run through Sacred Heart Community Services. La Mesa Verde, meaning “the green table” in Spanish, focuses on teaching members of the community to garden at their own homes to improve their food security and the quality of the food that they eat. In 2016, 125 gardens produced over 10,000 pounds of food worth over $50,000. The organizing manager, Jamie Chen, explained that while “they tend to their own gardens, they also come together in eight volunteer committees to do everything from hosting cooking events to planning plant distribution to leading garden bed builds.” In addition to their garden-at-home focus, they will be opening their first community garden in 2017. Chen noted that they “are excited to see how this grows and strengthens our network.”
Especially in this day and age of virtual connections forged through social media, it is encouraging to see real connections forming, thriving and growing through the urban gardens and farms of Silicon Valley.
Community Gardens Near You
- Community Garden at Bayside Fields
- McClellan Ranch Preserve
- Gilroy Demonstration Garden
Half Moon Bay
- Potrero Nuevo Farm (POST protected)
- Cesar E. Chavez Community Garden
- Willowgate Community Garden
- Morgan Hill Community Garden
- Pacifica Gardens
- Community Gardens Palo Alto
- Pie Ranch
- Community Gardens San Jose
- Valley Verde
- Beresford Community Garden
- The Forge Garden at SCU
- El Quito Park Community Garden
- Full Circle Farm
- Charles Street Gardens