Valley Verde, founded in 2012, has developed a seed-to-table “Community Food System” model to address food insecurity in low-income communities through environmentally sustainable home organic gardening. This model uses three complementary, intertwined components.
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. 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. To participate, Home Gardening graduates are trained to provide 1:1 mentoring and coaching for new Home Garden participants.