OUR COMMUNITY FOOD SYSTEM
Valley Verde’s Community Food System involves three linked program components:
- Organic home gardening (link to Home gardening)
- Our Deep Roots mentoring program (link to Deep Roots)
- Our Super Jardineros Project, that trains families to grow seedlings backyard greenhouses in order to generate income, to learn greenhouse skills, and to manage a microenterprise. (link to Super Jardineros)
We are developing a community-based food system from seed to table that challenges entrenched issues of food insecurity and dependence on mainstream food resources.
This is the first step toward building food independence for Valley Verde families. Each family receives one or two raised garden beds along with soil, compost, drip irrigation systems, and three planting cycles of organic seedlings.
Monthly workshops help the gardeners deal with various gardening challenges and share best practices. Training includes information on nutrition and the health benefits of a diet that’s heavy in fresh vegetables. This program makes healthy eating more affordable by teaching families how to grow their own food.
This component brings low-income families closer to self-sufficiency and financial stability. It’s also a critical step toward a food system that empowers vulnerable families and puts food access and community health in the spotlight. In phase 1, experienced Home Gardeners received specially built greenhouses for their own yards and learned how to cultivate seedlings both for our home garden program and for sale to the public. In our pilot, which concluded in 2016, each participant earned $2,200 from seedling sales.
Now the program is expanding to a large commercial greenhouse in which Valley Verde and Super Jardineros will grow seedlings in much larger numbers. (LINK TO OUR COMMUNITY GREENHOUSE) Because of the extraordinary diversity of our community, we emphasize culturally-preferred seedlings like bok choy and okra, which are particularly marketable. In addition, the Super Jardineros cultivate cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, and two tomato varieties.
This is the mentoring component of our work. Valley Verde developed the Deep Roots program in 2014. To participate, Home Gardening graduates are trained to provide 1:1 mentoring and coaching for new Home Garden participants. Each mentor guide and support the new gardeners participating in the Home Gardening Program, by providing monthly home visits and reporting progress and issues from participants. Mentors share their inputs from the community, findings and challenges during the monthly mentor meetings.
Our Community Greenhouse
The greenhouse opened May 25 2017 on a vacant lot on West San Carlos Street in downtown San Jose. Valley Verde transformed the lot into a community growing space after City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in December 2016 granting tax incentives to landowners who allow their property to be used for urban agriculture.
Examples of crops that they plan to grow include okra, epazote for Mexican dishes, and bitter melon, a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. Valley Verde will sell some of the greenhouse seedlings and distribute the rest to families in its home gardening program. “Super jardineros,” building home nursery micro-businesses with the organization’s support, can use the greenhouse to learn growing techniques and improve their yields.
Valley Verde will also host workshops and planting demonstrations at the space, building on the nonprofit’s mission to support low-income communities in growing their own food.