4/15/09 – Blogging from El Jardin de la playa – General Info
Our garden is a sustainable, organic urban garden located in the Mexican neighborhood of Santa Cruz, California. The community started the garden in 1994. A handful of gardeners have worked their land since then. Each gardener has a contract with the City of Santa Cruz and works their land in accordance to that contract and their own gardening practices. This year we have 23 gardeners. We are from California, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Nicaragua and El Salvador. We speak various languages, including but not limited to Spanish, English, and Zapotec.
Our garden is run by a man named Domingo Mendoza. Domingo has been working the land for approximately 70 years. He has extensive knowledge, experience, and practices of organic, sustainable, indigenous, and communal ways of working land. He opens and closes the garden and ensures that communal spaces, such as flower beds, walkways and benches, are clean and presentable for visitors and gardeners. Domingo also cares for the crops when people cannot make it to care for their plants. This is especially important to ensure a plentiful harvest. Additionally, Domingo sweeps the surrounding area of the garden, the sidewalks and streets of the city of Santa Cruz. The garden is close to historic Santa Cruz Boardwalk and located in the poorest area of the city, therefore, there is a lot of trash, etc. Domingo ensures that our garden is a clean, welcoming and bountiful place.
Because our garden is a subsistence garden, we have a fairly strict planting season. Many of us plant before March 15, while the rest of us have everything planted by the end of April. To date the crops of our garden include: various types of beans, squash, chiles, lettuce and corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, basil, mandarins, lemons, tomatillos, and strawberries. In order to maintain an organic and subsistence garden, gardeners must have some knowledge and dedication to a communal sense of working the land. This ensures we have organic and sustainable land. However, (and this is a point I will return to) the city contract does not reflect these needs. While the practices in the city contract are important and organic, these practices and regulations clearly come from a distinct understanding of land-use from the understanding of land-use of our gardeners.
The purpose of this blog is to document our experience of urban and community gardening. These experiences are important because, as we transition from large-scale industrial farming to locally produced, organic crops, we encounter a few challenges and many successes. Our challenges include working with the city of Santa Cruz and communication with the general public due to our lack of resources and the fact that most of the gardeners are monolingual Spanish speakers, while the city of Santa Cruz officials and other community members are monolingual English speakers. At the same time our successes are plentiful. For example, last year we fed at least the families and friends of the 19 gardeners and any one who came to the garden during harvest. Additionally, we maintain organic practices, contribute to a locally based food economy, and ensure a healthy environment.