The Power of LandPaths’ Community Gardens in Pandemic Times
By LandPaths Staff
July 23, 2020
When LandPaths broke ground at Bayer Farm in 2007 and kids from the neighborhood began planting seeds on a neglected plot of land in Roseland, we knew something special was happening. It was obvious in the potlucks that sprung up, followed by cactus, sunflowers, greens, and chickens. It was obvious from the smiles on children’s faces as they traipsed through the garden learning about beneficial insects and compost during IOOBY field trips. It was obvious from the joy and belonging on the faces of neighbors who soon claimed their very own community garden plots, where they were able to grow fresh, culturally relevant, chemical-free food.
Food Security in a Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact Sonoma County (particularly the Latinx community, which has suffered high rates of the virus due to inequality and dependence on their labor as essential/frontline workers) the value of our community teaching gardens to the physical and mental health of the communities surrounding Bayer Farm and Andy’s Unity Park (AUP) in southwest Santa Rosa has never been more apparent. Nationally, the New York Times, Civil Eats, Earth Island Journal, and other publications have covered the crucial importance of urban and community gardens to food security and community health in the time of coronavirus.
Juanito, a volunteer and gardener at Bayer Farm, told Bilingual Garden Specialist Jonathan Bravo: “Our community garden is a treasure! During this situation, it is a blessing and more important than ever.”
When County Health Officials first announced orders to close parklands, our staff struggled to figure out a way to allow access to the gardens without compromising safety protocols. New Audiences Manager Omar Gallardo worked with officials from the City of Santa Rosa and County of Sonoma Regional Parks to come up with a plan that would allow the gardeners at Bayer Farm and AUP community garden to continue accessing their plots.
At both locations, this looks like allowing only a specific amount of people to work in the gardens at any given time. Masks and six-feet of social distancing, outside of family groups, were required at all times.
“Access was an ongoing concern from the beginning, but I was determined to try to keep the garden open,” says Omar. “Keeping access to the food for the gardeners was essential to us. If you could go to the supermarket for food, why not to Bayer?”
The collaboration and ongoing communication with city and county officials and resulting in distancing restrictions similar to those in place at grocery stores allowed the gardens to reopen on a limited basis during the second week of shelter-in-place orders. Financial support for on-site staff through funding from the City of Santa Rosa’s Measure O also made this possible. The response from the community shows us that this was the right move. On any given day during the pandemic, 17 to 40 people have come to the garden to harvest food throughout the day. The teaching portion of Bayer Farm, maintained by volunteers and LandPaths staff, has provided fresh vegetables for Roseland community members who don’t have access to land on which to grow their own food.
LandPaths has also worked throughout the summer with Redwood Empire Food Bank, the City of Santa Rosa, and Sonoma County Regional Parks to continue our free summer lunch program at both gardens. The free summer lunch program is a chance for parents and guardians to pick up free lunches for any kids under the age of 18. Thank you to our dedicated volunteers for putting so much work into settling up and serving lunches!
A Place for Healing and Wellbeing
In mid-June, at a time when Sonoma County residents that identify as Latinx or Hispanic accounted for 75 percent of the Covid-19 cases, LandPaths hosted residents from UCSF/Sutter Hospital at Bayer Farm. Led by Dr. Michael Valdovinos, the residents and staff from St Joseph health provided information with Spanish translation on the coronavirus, answered questions, and left resources for participants from Roseland. The North Bay Organizing Project provided free masks.
“We have always seen Bayer as an essential place for the community during times of need, like the fires and now the pandemic,” says Omar. “Aside from food access, it is a place of healing and mental well-being. People speak of their connection to the land and their connection to what is grown here. A whole generation of youth (including our very own staff member Tomio Endo!) have grown-up in the garden. These cross-generational interactions give the youth a sense of meaning, especially now that they see their parents depending on the garden in another time of community crisis.”
How can you support LandPaths’ Bayer Farm and Andy’s Unity Park Community Garden?
- Donate to sustain our work through these difficult times. We depend on the generosity of our community to continue promoting food security, community well-being, and stewardship of the land at both community gardens.
- Volunteer with LandPaths. We gave something for everyone! Fill out a Volunteer Interest Form today. And thank you for your community spirit!
Thank you to the following community partners
Juanito, volunteer and community gardener at Bayer Farm
" Our community garden is a treasure! During this situation, it is a blessing and more important than ever. "