Long Beach Gets and Urban Garden
On an overcast Tuesday morning, just prior to the July Western Growers Board of Directors meeting, Western Growers Foundation (WGF) held a workday at a new urban garden in Long Beach. With more than 30 volunteers on hand, including WGF board members Rachael Barkley (Chairman Robby Barkley’s spouse) and Nikki Patricio (former Chairman Steve Patricio’s spouse), the garden received some tender loving care.
Before we rolled up our sleeves and joined students, family members and other volunteers in planting, mulching and watering projects throughout the half-acre garden, our WGF contingent presented the New City Farm school administrators with a grant of $1,500. New City Farm is a program of New City Public Schools, a charter K-12 school in the Long Beach Unified School District. The school also received an irrigation kit, courtesy of John Deere Water, educational resources, garden tools and healthy snacks for the event – fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. Other guests at the workday included representatives from California State Senator Alan Lowenthal’s office, Calif. Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal’s office and Long Beach Council Member Robert Garcia’s office.
The farm and garden, located on a lot between a car wash and an apartment building near downtown in a very densely populated area, opened in June and is used by New City Public Schools to teach farming, nutrition, environmental biology and conservation.
WGF was eager to partner with New City Farm due to the school’s emphasis on nutrition and its interest in exposing students to career opportunities in agriculture. Now that the school is back in session, both the elementary and high school campus students will be able to walk to the New City Farm for hands on lessons several times each week. “It is so important for young people in urban areas to understand where their food comes from and to acquire a taste for the nutritious fruits and vegetables that Western Growers’ members grow for the nation,” said Rachael Barkley.
The community has really rallied around this project. In only six weeks, they have erected a well planned, attractive garden from a littered dirt lot. Not only are parents, students and teachers putting in the work, but the City of Long Beach is also very supportive of the project as well. City officials have leased the land to the school for $1 per year. The Long Beach Office of Sustainability and the City Council have also been very supportive, contributing time, talent and treasure to the project. Whole Foods Market is also involved, providing free cooking and nutrition classes for the community. The school hopes that the farm can foster transformative change in the neighborhood through community events, gardening workshops and nutrition classes.
WGF has been able to provide grant funding, educator and school garden resources to 80 Arizona and California schools this year, and to date has funded more than 415 gardens, all made possible through individual and corporate donations and grants, including Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. WGF was able to fund the New City Farm thanks to a grant from the Monsanto Fund.