By Chris Romo for South Kern Sol
BAKERSFIELD – About a year ago, the City of Bakersfield offered a plot of land in southeast Bakersfield to the Greenfield Walking Group, to plant a community garden. The fifteen group members took on the challenge, and this summer they had their first harvest. Now, residents say they are beginning to see and feel the positive impact the garden project is having on their neighborhood.
“This garden is giving us fresh vegetables and is making me want to eat healthier now,” says Andres Romero, a 14-year-old volunteer.
Even though most of the volunteers during the garden’s first year were adults, there is hope to engage more young people like Romero in the coming year. The group is specifically targeting young children in an attempt to put a halt to the youth obesity epidemic, by teaching them about gardening and healthy eating.
“The reason we built this garden was to teach kids lessons they can use for the rest of their life,” says Jose Pinto, a member of the Greenfield Walking Group. He added that he wishes to teach youth that hard work pays off.
“We all worked hard, especially Gema Perez, to see this [garden] grow, and now it’s nice to be rewarded with fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Jose Pinto.
The community garden is a first for Greenfield, where things like farmers markets and homegrown organic produce had basically been non-existent.
About twenty families have contributed to the care and management of the garden, and the produce harvested is divided between all of the families evenly.
Residents hope the garden will not only make the community a better and healthier place, but will provide a safe place where the area’s children can go outside to play.
“This is a neighborhood that isn’t so safe and healthy,” says Antonio Mendoza, a 13-year-old volunteer. “Sometimes I don’t even feel safe to walk down the street to school.”
Amy Gomez, a mother of two, says that the community garden is bringing residents closer, and it has alleviated her own fears of going out for walks.
“This is a neighborhood plagued by violence, and in need of a place where children and young adults can go to be safe and do positive things. The garden is doing just that.”
Despite the tangible success, residents see a need for more community awareness of what the garden has to offer.
“I wish people would see how good this is for the community … it’s sad how people don’t seem that interested with what we are doing,” says Pinto. “Even though it’s (just) a few of us (working on the garden), we have gotten a lot of stuff done and we have brought lots of change. We are probably the best thing that has happened in this neighborhood.
With the success of the garden, the Greenfield Walking Group is planning to break ground on a garden at another location, the Rexland community.
“This is only the start, and we have a long way to go,” said Pinto.
The Greenfield Community Garden owes some of its early success to the local businesses and nonprofit organizations that lent a helping hand. Garden Pathways, a non-profit community organization donated approximately $6,000. Bonnie Nursery, donated vegetable and fruit plants. Other sponsors such as Lowe’s Home Improvement, Bakersfield mayor Harvey Hall, and the City of Bakersfield also helped get the project running by supplying the Greenfield gardeners with plants, fertilizer, and tools.