I was just perusing the new social media website wishes4life.com, which focuses on wish expression and development (or what they call “wishworking,”) where I found an item of interest about a special community garden in the Walnut section of Irvine, California called the “Incredible Edible Park.”
The garden came about as a collaboration between the City of Irvine, Southern California Edison, and the Second Harvest Food Bank. Other sponsors include: the Irvine Ranch Water District, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, Windwood Homeowners Associations, Orange County Farm Community and El Camino Real Elementary.
Three years ago, this 7.5 acre parcel was little more than a weed-filled utility easement, that was not only an eyesore, but it cost the city $4500 a year to maintain (basically to control weeds). Now the harvest helps the food bank feed 200,000 hungry people every month. The site now also includes a bike trail that connects to the Irvine trail system. The city just announced that additional acres are going to be made available.
What makes this community garden different is the fact the food is being grown as an act of giving, most others feed those who do the work. According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are close to one million community gardens in the US, though with a tally like that, I expect the term is interpreted quite broadly.
According to the founders, Sam and Linda Caruthers, “On our final day on this earth, and as many days before then as possible, we are working to feed needy people in Orange County by running the O.C. Harvest Program through Second Harvest Food Bank. O.C. Harvest farms 8 acres of land in Irvine.
The garden now grows produce year round, utilizing volunteers to pick the crops. The produce is then distributed to over 300 nonprofit organizations, such as soup kitchens, churches, battered women’s shelters, children’s after school programs, and senior centers, to help needy people in Orange County. The program allows volunteers of all ages to participate, which often includes Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and school classes. It is a great way to instill in children, the value of helping others in need.
Depending on the season, volunteers will be planting seeds or smaller plants, picking weeds, or harvesting broccoli, carrots, onions, strawberries, cabbage, chili peppers, green beans, watermelons and pumpkins. Occasionally, they harvest lemons and oranges from the citrus groves of the Centennial Museum in Santa Ana.
I spoke with Kris Thompson, volunteer coordinator at the Second Harvest Food Bank. She told me that there is an average of 475 volunteers helping out at the Incredible Edible Park, each of them putting in an average of two hours a month. All told the Park provides roughly 100,000 pounds of food per year to the food bank. That’s only a tiny fraction of the 16.8 million pounds that the Food Bank hands out annually, but then the Edible Park provides food to many other groups.
Sam and Linda have posted a wish on wishes4 life.com for more support for their efforts, to help the recruit more volunteers, maintain the land and perhaps purchase additional acreage. Another user has added a second wish that their model be replicated in other locations throughout the US.
Opportunities to get involved or contact the founders can be found here.
RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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