The Linda Vista Community Garden was created in summer of 2011 as a community-driven effort to increase resident access to fresh, local produce. The garden started as a small project at local nonprofit Bayside Community Center with a passionate coordinator who was very engaged in the Linda Vista neighborhood. As it grew, the garden attracted additional community resources, including involvement from the Linda Vista Resident Leaders in Action (Leaders in Action) team. This team includes residents that have been trained in pursuing policy, systems, and environmental changes in their community to improve access to healthy food and physical activity. The Leaders in Action team also includes staff from Bayside Community Center and from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) North Central Region.
In Linda Vista, the diverse and collaborative Leaders in Action team organized members to work on a Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) project to enhance the garden. The team’s contribution to the garden’s growing momentum is a project of the County of San Diego Healthy Works program, implemented by Bayside Community Center. This work supports the County’s Live Well San Diego vision for a healthy, safe and thriving region.
Since the garden produces more than the residents and their families can consume, the Leaders in Action team sought to sell fresh, pesticide-free produce grown in the garden to Linda Vista residents for an affordable price. In Spring 2015, the team created a system to sell produce from the garden directly to community members. Since then, growers have been holding on-site sales every Tuesday afternoon.
Getting started with selling garden-grown produce to the public is not as easy as it sounds. It was difficult for community stakeholders to interpret the city’s policy regarding where and when residents are able to sell produce from a community garden. The team misinterpreted the policy and believed produce could only be sold within 50 feet of the garden, which is located behind the community center. The team asked a senior planner at the City of San Diego for help and clarification. Their willingness to reach out to city staff offered them avenues to become educated and make real progress. It also reflected their training and increased capacity to delve into policy and city permitting issues. The planner did some research and clarified that they were allowed to sell in the front of the building. The team was excited to move its produce stand to the front where it is more visible and benefits from the foot traffic.
Access to land to expand the garden has also been identified as a major issue. Currently, the Linda Vista Community Garden is at full capacity with a long waitlist. However, the local school district owns a vacant lot next to the garden, and the team is working with the district to explore expanding the garden onto school property.
The Linda Vista Resident Leaders in Action team plans to continue weekly on-site sales in the garden and at Bayside Community Center. They are determined to grow the program to offer more local produce to residents. Access to land is an identified obstacle to this goal, but Leaders in Action team members will continue advocating and working with the school district to provide opportunities for residents to grow and sell healthy food.
By Roberto Ramirez
County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency
This material was produced by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch with funding from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious food for better health. For CalFresh information, call 2-1-1. For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net.