SF Bay Area

New Beginnings Spring from the Homeless Garden Project

Field crops on the Homeless Garden Project. NRCS photo

Field Crops on the Homeless Garden.  NRCS Phot0

By Suzanne Pender

The Homeless Garden Project offsite link image     (HGP) in Santa Cruz, California provides sanctuary, refuge and meaningful work for homeless citizens within the healing environment of a three-acre organic farm in Santa Cruz, California. This unique urban garden and farm is inspired by the joy that comes from growing and sharing healthy food, the well-being created by vibrant social and natural ecosystems, and every individual’s potential for growth and renewal.

HGP Director Darrie Ganzhorn said, “Our vision is to create a thriving and inclusive community, workforce and local food system. Our goal is to create a world-class farm.”

Farm Manager Chris Omer gave me a tour of the garden, along with USDA NRCS District Conservationist Rich Casale and NRCS Earth Team Volunteer and University of California (UC) Santa Cruz student Ryan Hutchison.

Rich Casale, NRCS district conservationist, provides assistance to Chris Omer, farm manager, Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz, CA. NRCS photo..jpg

NRCS photo

HGP runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and trainees create value-added products, such as such as wreaths and candles, from farm-grown materials that are sold at a retail store downtown. People who are homeless can become trainees in the garden, where they gain transitional employment, learn basic life skills, share four hot meals a week with staff and others, and grow organic food for the local community. HGP’s Value-Added Enterprise provides work opportunities for trainees all year long, particularly during the rainy season.

Next year, the Homeless Garden Project will be growing even more as it moves to a 614-acre city-owned greenbelt site that includes a nine-acre permanent farm site. NRCS staff have been assisting with the site’s conservation plan and other natural resource issues.

“Having a permanent site provides new opportunities—for the first time, we’ll be able to have orchards and create a 20-year farm plan,” said Ganzhorn.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides conservation assistance for all types of agriculture–from the very large-scale production farm and ranch to small, community-based projects such as this.

Omer said, “Early on, we met with [NRCS district conservationist] Rich Casale to talk about the possibility of using the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative and conservation planning for the site.”

NRCS provided soils information and preliminary wetland determinations for the new site, as well as overall conservation planning assistance. “The goal is to incorporate wildlife and enhance any wetland areas, organically working with nature,” said Casale. “There are major opportunities with the new site. You want to think of water issues up front and plan for key strategies such as water harvesting and irrigation. Understanding soil and crops can help make the water go further.”

“You’ve got to keep asking the question―how can we do all of this better?” said Casale.

The farm will be organic from day one. The usual three-year period to transition to organic won’t be needed, since the land has been fallow for years.

Ganzhorn said, “From the very beginning, Homeless Garden Project has been organic. When addressing root causes of homelessness, it’s always been important to us to use sustainable farming methods and to focus on long-term health and well-being in the most holistic way possible. Organic does this.​”

“The garden engages citizens directly on the importance of organic practices and opens participants’ eyes to possibilities for building a healthier future. Support of community gardens from USDA and NRCS brings national movements together with local citizen action to multiply results of both movements,” she said.

Both NRCS and the Homeless Garden Project benefit immensely from volunteer support.

“Last year, nearly 2,500 people volunteered in our organization, taking away experiences of organic agriculture, community building, social enterprise and a deeper understanding of how our community can address homelessness. Above all, volunteers and visitors take away a sense of agency. We all can build the kind of community we want to live in,” said Darrie.

The NRCS Santa Cruz district office regularly has NRCS Earth Team volunteers, many of whom are students at UC Santa Cruz. These Earth Team volunteers work on anything from conservation planning to soil testing. Many former Earth Team volunteers from this office have gone on to careers in agriculture and environmental fields. In addition to experience, the time as an Earth Team volunteer also provides insight into the types of careers possible for them.

Homeless Garden Project participants have transitioned from being homeless to careers in farming, restaurants, floral shops and others, and to having their own homes. The garden is life-giving in so many ways, and demonstrates that effort, care and patience can make both people and plants thrive.

It is wonderful to see NRCS, working along with so many others, provide assistance to such a worthy effort ―one that enables people, as well as plants, to grow and blossom.

The Homeless Garden Project kitchen provides meals from food grown in the garden to workers, volunteers, and trainees. NRCS photo..jpg

The Homeless Garden Project kitchen provides meals from food grown in the garden to workers, volunteers, and trainees. NRCS photo.

For more information on NRCS, visit our website at www.nrcs.usda.gov; for information on NRCS assistance for organic agriculture, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/organic.

See the Tumblr on the Homeless Garden Project here. offsite link image

 

cp_banner
CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


 

Actions
Sep
30
Fri
5:00 PM Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Sep 30 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the Street. @ In front of MLK Library
End Endless War Remaining silent is not an option. We can either have a culture of complicity, or a culture of resistance. With no public opposition we will have a culture of complicity. Public acts[...]
Oct
15
Sat
8:00 AM SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobil...
SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobil...
Oct 15 @ 8:00 AM – Oct 22 @ 12:00 PM
SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobilization to Nonviolently Resist Killer Drones
Mark your calendars and please join us for all or part of this year’s national mobilization to Shut Down Creech! Fall Action: October 15 – 22, 2022 (Saturday through Saturday) Sponsored by: CODEPINK, Veterans For Peace & Ban[...]
Gatherings
Sep
29
Thu
11:00 AM YEMEN – Emergency Online Action
YEMEN – Emergency Online Action
Sep 29 @ 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
YEMEN - Emergency Online Action
  The ceasefire in Yemen expires in just a few days. Join our action session to demand Congress pass a War Powers Resolution for Yemen and end U.S. support for the Saudi-UAE led war! RSVP[...]
Sep
30
Fri
12:00 PM Dance of Peace Class Municipal R...
Dance of Peace Class Municipal R...
Sep 30 @ 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Dance of Peace Class Municipal Rose Garden.
Join Khalilah Ramirez, the Peace Dancer, for the Dance of Peace class at the Municipal Rose Garden (at Dana and Naglee) San Jose. Dance & Play among the flowers! You will learn how to create[...]
Oct
1
Sat
9:00 AM Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Oct 1 @ 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Description This is a morning yoga class focused on strengthening, calming and centering the body, mind and spirit. No prior experience in yoga is required. Link To All Classes: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3090894469… Meeting ID:[...]
Oct
2
Sun
4:00 PM Cuban Women of the African Diasp...
Cuban Women of the African Diasp...
Oct 2 @ 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Cuban Women of the African Diaspora Film Festival
A series of five programs,  on Oct 2,9,16, 23, 30 (Sunday evenings.)   The films of Juanamaría Cordones-Cook. Films in this series – all with English subtitles Oct. 2: Belkis Ayón: Grabado de desasosiego / The Engraving of Restlessness[...]
Oct
4
Tue
5:00 PM Captial Calling Party
Captial Calling Party
Oct 4 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Captial Calling Party
On Tuesday, October 4, join CODEPINK Congress for the next Capitol Calling Party – guests TBD. RSVP and stay tuned for more information!    WHEN October 4, 2022 at 5:00pm – 6:00pm (PDT)  WHERE Zoom  CONTACT Marcy Winograd · marcy@codepink.org[...]

PinkBridgeDivider

 

WORLD

PinkBridgeDivider

ARTS

PinkBridgeDivider

GREEN ECONOMY

PinkBridgeDivider

From our National Site

The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!