The CalFresh Healthy Living Program at UC Cooperative Extension (CFHL, UCCE) in Riverside County has two garden projects with Riverside Faith Temple and the Community Settlement Association in Eastside Riverside. In early 2020, we received Small Sparks Neighborhood Matching Grants from the City of Riverside, Community and Economic Development Department to expand and continue our garden activities. However, these projects were on hold for over a year due to the pandemic closures. With the recent reopening of the community, our gardens are growing again.
The Riverside Faith Temple organized a planting event on Saturday, May 15th, 2021. The event drew a crowd of 23 people, mostly church members, who came out to spend 3 hours helping to assemble two new garden boxes and plant a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, corn, zucchini squash, eggplant, onions, edamame, pole beans, cantaloupe melons, bell peppers, strawberries and basil. UCCE Master Gardener Michael Fisher was also there to give advice about what to consider before planting. The garden now has six raised beds and is growing in community support. Pastor Duane Sims in partnership with CFHL, UCCE started this community garden in June 2019 with the hope that it will be a platform for the church family and neighbors to learn and grow together in healthy living and friendship. On the day of the event, it was nice to see old friends, make new friends and to work together to build and grow this garden. The enthusiasm of this group was great, and they were a bright light on an otherwise gray May morning.
At the Community Settle Association, the CFHL UCCE team led a group of seven volunteers to help clean debris, pull weeds and plant tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, bell peppers, corn, onions, serrano chiles and parsley on April 28th and May 3rd, 2021. Although the pandemic had put a pause on this garden, it did not dampen the spirits of the group. Another event is being organized on May 26th to bring the garden families and volunteers back together to celebrate restarting of the CSA community garden that has been in existence for 7 years. The community continues to value this garden and the opportunity to grow their own food.
Author - Cooperative Extension Advisor Emerita
Editor - Program Representative III
Contributor - Community Education Specialist II, Cal Fresh Healthy Living University of California Cooperative Extension