Garden seeks new roots

DEMONSTRATION GARDEN TO BUILD BROADER ‘COMMUNITY’

Three-year-old Amy Lentz finds a poppy-filled resting spot at the Gilroy Demonstration Garden.

The era of the Gilroy Demonstration Garden will come to an end. Driven by a new board of directors, the large garden plot in downtown Gilroy is about to be transformed into a Gilroy Community Garden.

Board of Directors President Steven Stratton believes the change will help the garden to grow deeper roots in the community, and produce thousands of pounds of nutritious, organic food.

“Vital, vibrant and attractive in the heart of downtown,” Stratton said of his vision for the future of the Gilroy Demonstration Garden. “We will teach people how to grow their food and give them a place to grow it.”

Initially conceived in 2010 by the Gilroy Leadership Class of 2010, the Gilroy Demonstration Garden was designed to be different from other community gardens. With the change, comes a shift in terminology and philosophy. The demonstration garden shows the community how to build an organic garden. The community garden will invite the community to claim small 4-foot by 10-foot plots in which they can grow vegetables for their homes or businesses.

The Demonstration Garden was intended to be a family-friendly space, where the community could learn about gardening. Unlike many other community gardens, it would not offer individual plots, and would have no strict rules determining what was to be grown. The garden also relied entirely on volunteers to maintain the grounds.

Stratton, a financial and insurance advisor, was formerly one of the driving forces behind the Morgan Hill Community Garden. He moved to Gilroy in 2016, and again sought to become active in community gardening.

“Nature abhors a vacuum, and I was sucked quickly sucked into a board position,” Stratton said. “The board existed, but it was pretty lean, and it lacked a focus on leadership.”

Changes in the board have led to changes on the grounds. This week work commenced removing significant parts of the garden, making room for new community garden plots. Plans to replace the existing wooden fence with an iron fence similar to the fence at St. Mary’s Cemetary are also in the works.

The fencing project alone will cost up to $50,000, and the Demonstration Garden will work to increase funding to help pay for its continued expansion. Currently, funding for the garden comes from grants, fundraising activities such and farm-to-table dinners. While the new board will be tasked with increased funding, Stratton’s responsibilities include protecting the funding the garden already has.

Stratton’s leadership was put to the test on April 16 at the meeting of the Gilroy City Council, when the council weighed a decision to reduce a block grant that had added $14,500 to the garden’s treasury. In March the Community and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee met and decided that because of the garden’s slow progress, it would reduce funding from $14,500 to $10,000 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Ultimately, the council voted 5-2 not to reduce funding for the garden, with Councilmembers Fred Tovar and Peter Leroe-Muñoz voting to cut funding and distribute the funds to other areas of need in the city.

Along with Stratton, new garden board members include Clint Christman, Frank Avelar, Michael Sanchez and Michelle Rue.

On Saturday, April 28 The Gilroy Demonstration Garden will celebrate a South County Earth Day Celebration and Annual Plant Sale at the Demonstration Garden. From 10am to 2 pm, the garden will celebrate with kid’s activities, educational activities about bees, pollination and composting. Organic veggie and flower plants will be on sale. Recology South Valley is sponsoring the event.

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