Sarah Van Buskirk
The University of La Verne’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement as well as the La Verne Ocean Movement Club partnered up with the Peace and Carrots Community Garden for a day filled with reducing, reusing, and recycling, Saturday morning.
According to the American Lung Association State of the Air, following Los Angeles County’s second recent ‘F’ grade result in air quality, the need to be more environmentally conscious is being asked more than ever.
Peace and Carrots is a community garden located on 2425 E St. subordinate to the Church of the Brethren who give back to the community as they devote two plots of land to Options for Learning Headstart Preschool to teach the kids about growing their own food and nutrition. Peace and Carrots also donates produce to local food banks, giving away over 2,000 pounds of food in a year.
About 15 volunteers, some being ULV students, learned about the environmental and psychological benefits to gardening while soaking up UV rays as the beautification of the garden went underway to honor Earth Day.
“Mother Nature does so much for us so I try and leave as much of a greener imprint as I can,” Frank Rodriguez, junior business administration major, said. “There is a sense of stress relief that comes with gardening and putting care and commitment to something else that has a great impact on us.”
Susan Shibuya, professor of biology at ULV, started by leading the group around for a tour of the garden as she explained what was being grown in the various beds and some knowledge surrounding the species.
The Sunday school’s plot contains blackberries, which grow like a weed and are hard to contain; onions, radishes, and strawberries for the children to tend to. In the middle of the garden are a few raised beds for those with mobility issues.
Two of the beds are sanctioned for herbs and pollinators such as lemon verbena, basil, rosemary, and catnip.
In other neighboring plots, there were zucchini, peppers, celery, and kale. Shibuya said that California is a great place to grow greens such as lettuces all year round due to the less intense winter climate.
The rest of the garden was filled with a variety of produce such as cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, artichoke, tomatoes, peas, and swiss chard.
Native California poppies were blooming in cohorts with the current super bloom that is saturating many parts of the state with its color arrayment. Shibuya said the only other flowers the garden likes to grow are edible ones or ones that deter pests.
After the tour, Shibuya took the meditative approach and began speaking on the healing, calming, and digesting properties that come from gardening. She said that being in the garden balances all the aspects in one’s life and being in nature can lower stress levels and heart rates.
The volunteers started by putting their phones away and entered a five-minute period of quiet phoneless time that Shiboya had recommended. The volunteers tested their pulse before and after the five minutes to compare the beats per minute. The volunteers began burrowing any weeds that they saw surrounding the beds in a peaceful and quiet manner.
“I think doing something as simple as planting a garden is really important,” Jenieva Black, junior biology major, said. “This is already established for us to come help out at but this is super easy and is something we can do that doesn’t take that much effort and I think the personal benefits of being able to connect with nature and decompress in the moment is something we all need more of.”
Thereafter, it was time to get more down and dirty as the volunteers were split into three groups. The first group with Shibuya took on the invocation of the garden by sweeping up leaves or green waste that were in the walkways.
The second group was followed by Marvhic Guinto. He is one of the Master Gardeners for the last two years. The volunteers raked up the remnants of Guinto’s weed wacking.
“Gardening really allows you to get to know where your food comes from and watching a plant grow from a seed is really satisfying,” Guinto said. “I currently work in an office setting so volunteering at the community garden is very relaxing.”
The third group was with Kristina Flores, a ULV alumna. The group took on the smaller details of trimming the inner bed weeds, such as nut grass which is invasive.
“It’s really important to eat and grow seasonally because stuff from the grocery stores may not always be fresh,” Flores said. “I feel like if more people would garden there would be less need at the stores to mass produce and mass ship the food.”
Trash and compost bins began filling up and the aroma of flowers permeated the air.
Finally after a few hours of the volunteers’ hard work, a lunch provided by Subway was passed around and everyone sat down to relax.
As the event wrapped up, Shibuya had luffa, carrot, and calendula seeds to hand out as well as blackberry starter plants for the volunteers to try and expand their garden at home.
To become a Peace and Carrots gardener, the rent for a bed is $40 for a year or $25 for six months. Tools, irrigation, and advice are provided. For more information contact the church’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.