Pomona Hope

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08/14 10

Bonds Grow at Pomona Community Garden  

Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Posted by Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

POMONA – Rudy Alvarado walked among the lush green plants he and his family tend to in a lot on the southwest corner of Center and Gibbs streets and names some of the things growing there.

The list sounds as rich as the produce section of a well-stocked grocery store.

“I have watermelon, I have radishes, I have jalapeño chile. Here I have (zucchini) squash. … I have corn. I have sunflowers and carrots,” Alvarado said in Spanish recently.

“Over here I have string beans, and right here, I have peanuts,” Alvarado said as he crouched down next to the plant and carefully held the young green pods in his hand.

Alvarado, along with his wife, Magali, and their two children, Ricardo, 8, and Gisel, 7, is among the urban gardeners who are growing food to put on their dinner table, trading gardening knowledge and building relationships at the Pomona Community Garden.

The idea for the garden came from pastors at First Presbyterian Church of Pomona who thought the vacant lot could have a better use as a community garden, said Drew Rushlow, the garden’s manager.

The concept was presented to a church committee, which supported the idea.

From there, church representatives worked with the Pomona Redevelopment Agency, which owns the lot.

The two worked out a licensing agreement that allows the church to use the land at no cost, although it must pay for utilities, said Redevelopment Director Raymond Fong.

Along the way, Rushlow, with a background in farming, became the head of the garden project.

With an emphasis on growing crops without the use of chemicals and pesticide, people are learning they don’t need a huge amount of gardening knowledge to get started.

The garden does several things, Rushlow said.

“It’s growing food, people and community,” Rushlow said.

People are learning to build relationships with different neighborhood residents and learning from each other, Rushlow said.

Along the way, the gardeners are transforming a vacant lot into something special.

“Pomona had a rich heritage and background in citrus,” Rushlow said. “We’ve lost that because of urban development. Let’s just take some of that heritage back.

“Let people see beauty can be restored in Pomona.”

Resident Richard Wulfing, with two plots in the garden growing beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and squash, became familiar with the garden while on his way to the nearby YMCA of Pomona Valley.

“It’s something worthwhile and a lot of fun,” he said.

Wulfing is a retired Los Angeles County parks superintendent at a number of large parks, including Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas.

He’s shared his knowledge of water-saving irrigation systems with Rushlow and helped install one in the garden.

For now, people are growing enough food to use at home, but in time it may be possible to collectively produce enough to sell at a farmers market or to trade with a food cooperative, Rushlow said.

Alvarado and his family became part of the 10 farmers and individuals working plots in the garden after church members extended an invitation to neighbors to participate.

Margaret Connors, a community liaison with the church, said she and those she is working with thought they would get a greater response, “but this is a good start.”

Alvarado said his children are learning about cultivating food and the family is saving about $100 a month in grocery bills.
“And it all tastes better than the fruits and vegetables at the store,” he said.

That’s the result of having a pesticide-free garden, but there’s something else, Alvarado said.

His family was close-knit before they began working as a family in the garden.

“I think this makes the relationship with the family stronger,” Alvarado said.

 

 

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  • Rodman November 29, 2010

    This garden has turned a blighted block of the city into a green zone. What a service to the community and city.

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