on May 23, 2004
© 2004- The Press Democrat
among the rows of tomato vines, amid the chirping and croaking of
crickets and frogs, a visitor to the Harvest for the Hungry
community garden might believe he's stumbled upon a secret garden.
from sight from busy Yulupa Avenue, beyond the Christ Church United
Methodist parking lot and screened by a thick hedgerow, the garden is
unseen by those whizzing down the busy road.
really an urban treasure -- an organic garden where food is grown for
the hungry. And the best part is you don't have to know everything -- or
really, anything -- to be helpful,'' said aptly named volunteer Amy
Garden, who also serves as secretary to the nonprofit board.
the Harvest for the Hungry garden, volunteers pitch in to
grow lettuce, peas, onions, tomatoes, squash, beans, garlic, radishes,
cabbage, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables that wind up on dinner
and lunch plates at The Living Room, Food for Thought, the AIDS Food
Bank, FISH (Friends in Service Here) and other local soup kitchens.
really lucky in this community. ... But so much food comes in cans. We
can give gorgeous greens and ripe tomatoes that taste like tomatoes,''
said Martin Chilbulka, who balances his high-tech career with
in 1988 by Master Gardeners Marge Cerleti and Muchtar Salzman on
three-quarters of an acre loaned by Christ Church United Methodist, the
tiny urban farm has thrived, producing more than 7,000 pounds of produce
the menu of vegetables, fruits, spices, medicinal herbs and flowers has
grown over the years, so too has the slate of community groups that
benefit from lush, fresh food.
me, this garden offers the perfect microcosm of community. We grow. We
learn. We teach. We harvest and give,'' said Master Gardener Joni Lateer
of Santa Rosa, who has been volunteering regularly Wednesday mornings
for about a year.
addition to providing organically grown food to the hungry, the garden
has served as a model of sustainable gardening for the community. It
offers habitat gardens that benefit the ecosystem, a backyard
demonstration garden to show how to create a low-water-usage oasis in a
home yard and a medicinal herb garden.
to that the worm bin, the composting corner, the mini-fruit orchard and
perhaps the smallest vineyard in Wine Country -- one row of edible
grapes -- and it's clear why many volunteer hands are needed.
is a core group, really of about eight or 10 of us, who are here quite a
bit. Volunteers come and go all year long, for so many reasons,'' said
Chilbulka, who pointed out several long rows ready for planting if only
they had more willing helpers.
here is completely flexible. We don't ask for commitments or regular
hours. We just appreciate whatever people can do,'' he said.
of the newest volunteers, SRJC student Ben Wurtsbaugh of Santa Rosa,
spent a quiet morning this week cleaning bird baths and preparing
just doing this for a love of gardening. I get to hang out and learn
from master gardeners and maybe I'm working off a little karma, too,''
he said with a smile.
is harvested twice a week by volunteers who pick, wash, pack and often
deliver to appreciative recipients. Tucked in with deliveries are
fresh-cut flowers, also given freely.
Katie Torgerson, who volunteers at the garden and at The Living Room, a
daytime shelter for women and their children in Santa Rosa, the impact
of the garden is powerful.
Living Room invited the gardeners to lunch recently and the women told
us their stories. They thanked us, of course, but more importantly, many
said they felt that receiving nourishing, organic food contributed to
their recoveries,'' she said.
Harvest for the Hungry is supported primarily through its
annual plant sale. Regular free workshops are scheduled throughout the
June 5, it's hosting ``Good Bugs'' and July 31, ``Creating Sacred Space
in Your Garden.''
learn more, or to dig in, volunteer gardeners can call 579-2584, or
visit on a regular volunteer morning from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays,
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
can reach Staff Writer Rayne Wolfe at 521-5240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.