Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Community Gardening in Long Beach

            Within every community lie trials and tribulations, yet most citizens find a way to unite and either fix the issues or keep their head up throughout the rough times. The city of Long Beach has seen its share of poverty, crime and problems but still managed to unite and create organizations that will benefit the citizens overall.
A few organizations have come around in the hopes of bettering the community, and some have succeeded further than others.
Many community gardens have opened up in the Long Beach area and are focusing on citizens who are struggling to feed their families, especially with the troubles of today’s economy. The goal of these gardens is to rent out plots of land to underprivileged families and have them grow their own fruits and vegetables throughout the year for their very own use.
“We are an association similar to a condo where families pay a small charge for a membership,” says Lonnie Brundage, president of The Long Beach Community Garden Association, “We have assigned 306 plots so far, which equates to about 700 people of more depending on how many children are involved.”
Lonnie Brundage became involved with this organization in ’96 after she had open-heart surgery and felt the need to accomplish something big in her life. She found out the Long Beach Community Garden Association needed members and signed up. After a few years of working with this organization, she finally became president and now oversees and manages its 700 plus members.
“The most gratifying part of my job is knowing the good that we do because we donate to several charities in Long Beach as well as having the satisfaction of knowing that families now get to enjoy eating fresh food,” says Lonnie.
Another organization devoted to gardens as a means of fresh produce for poor families goes a step further and incorporates the idea of organic produce as well. Long Beach Organic, founded in ’94, operates seven organic gardens in Long Beach and is hoping to expand even more.
“Families rent a small piece of ground for their own vegetables. We have roughly 200 customers right now. I simply am there to make sure those gardens are maintained by our volunteers,” says Joe Corso, garden director of Long Beach Organic, “We have our work days on Saturday mornings and afterward all hang out together. The socializing part of it becomes fun.”
Joe Corse began as a gardener five years ago at one of the gardens. He realized the importance of organic agriculture and wanted to make people aware of the impact of how food is grown. As a garden director he now oversees all of the volunteers and must make sure that the families are using their rented plot of land properly.
“The biggest challenge so far has been dealing with people who rent a spot and don’t use it. My job is to make sure that people will use that plot, I try to give them encouragement. It has been an ongoing issue, and that is the only part of the job I don’t like…policing people,” says Joe.
Aside from the challenge of making sure the reservoirs are utilized, Joe’s favorite part of the job is beginning the gardens and seeing how much they are able to grow. Even though Joe says he isn’t an “organic fanatic” he believes that using decomposing organic matter in the soil is much more beneficial than using chemical pesticides.
Both of these organizations, Long Beach Community Garden Association and Long Beach Organic, have illustrated major progress toward the improvement of the surrounding community and the citizens have surely noticed.
“I love the idea of growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables. You know exactly what goes into it and you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals because it’s your own garden,” says Tania Ramirez, a Long Beach resident and mother of two.
Tania doesn’t own a plot of land yet but she is interested in finding out more about these organizations, especially the one that focuses on organic produce.
“I have two kids and I always worry about what they eat. I haven’t ever thought about growing my own food before and what a great idea that is,” says Tania.
Community gardens may not solve all of the world’s problems, but they are a positive step in the right direction. They focus on the overall health of the community and give individuals one less thing to worry about as well as bring families and friends closer together.


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