This weekend, five families made up of mothers, children, and young adults from Mar Vista Gardens visited Huerta del Valle Community Garden in Ontario, California. Our trip began in the early afternoon driving away from the Mar Vista Gardens community garden in two vehicles. Upon driving into Ontario after 1.5 hours of Los Angeles traffic, I saw small mom and pop restaurants, liquor stores, one-story homes and trailers nearing the address on our destination. Before stepping out of the car, we all pointed at the fenced area with plants growing beyond the height of the fence. We were confident we had found the garden, and this was confirmed when Maria Alonso, the Garden Manager, came out to greet us as we neared the fenced green area.
Styling her green Huerta del Valle shirt, Maria begins the tour by sharing the history of the community garden. The garden project began in 2013 when she decided to plant seeds in a small plot of land owned by the school district in order to have access to organic food for her family. With time, people passing by and other parents were interested in growing as well and they began to grow food with her. People wanted to produce their food, but they needed more land.
With support from the community and partners like Pitzer College and the City of Ontario, they were able to identify potential land outside the school district to build a community garden. The decision between leasing private or public land came from the city had more interest of an in supporting community health. Maria smiled as she shared this, explaining that support from the city and community partners have made it possible to do what they are doing today on this much larger piece of land. They are reaching their 3rd year anniversary with more than 60 families growing food, a compost facility, and a business that is sustaining the garden by producing organic food for local restaurants and Pitzer College.
After that introduction, we continued to tour the garden.
Martha, a community gardener from Mar Vista Gardens, admires the banana plant.
Drip irrigation installed in all the plots in order to conserve water.
Throughout the garden one will find native plant corners that include nopales, aloe vera, and other succulents.
Maria explains how these seedlings were delivered by a university after the community gardeners sent them the seeds to grow them in their greenhouses.
Mint growing next to the wooden fence in one of the community plots.
There are more than 8 boxes like these filled with worms decomposing food scraps the community members bring!
Rich horse manure forms part of their reliable source of compost for the community garden.
After the garden tour, we sat down in the shaded education area to welcome Andres Chavez who came to visit the community garden.
Chavez started off by sharing how racism and stereotypes many times separate neighborhoods from building power together. This was the case for farm workers in California during the time his grandfather, Cesar Chavez, was organizing. Andres describes the farmworker movement as a multicultural creation, one that was built and supported by farmworkers from Mexico, Central and South America, and of Japanese American descent working in the California fields. Without one of them, it would have been impossible to succeed in their goals. Boycott was the tool of choice for transforming labor practices and increasing agricultural worker rights. By the 5th year on their strike, 1500 striking workers turned into 18,000 and more than 17 million people all over the world stopped purchasing grapes from California. At the same time, Radio Campesino was established to support the voices of those unheard in mainstream media, and more than 5,000 affordable housing units were built for farmworker families.
Andres, shares that he admires the work community members are doing. He tells the audience that this work honors his grandfather Cesar Chavez and the many other organizers who gave their life to supporting people in the food system. He ended his speech with his grandfather’s quote, “Es mi creencia más profunda que solamente con dar de nuestra vida encontramos la vida” (It’s my most profound belief that only by giving our lives can we find life).
After Andres’ speech, we wrapped up the day by celebrating together with a plate of good food and gratitude for the land, the plants, and our friends who welcomed us into their community garden. By visiting Huerta del Valle, a garden that is built, worked, and lead by those most affected by the inequities in our food system, we met other cultivadores who are creating positive change for their families and neighborhoods knowing too well that no one else will do this work for them. Like Andres, I too admire the work Cultivadores Unidos and Huerta del Valle members and volunteers do each day.
Authored by: Eli Tizcareño
“La Educación del Corazón, César E. Chávez en sus Propias Palabras.” History. United Farm Workers. Copyrighted 1995 Fundación César E. Chávez. Accessed September 22, 2015.