Follow Us

408-666-4794
info@valleyverde.org

Mon - Friday 9.00 AM - 5:00 PM
Closed Sat. and Sun.

Super Jardineros Program

Introduction

Since 2012, Valley Verde has worked with families in San Jose and Gilroy, CA, providing them with intensive, year-round support to grow fresh, healthy produce at home. Our flagship Home Gardening program provided over 280 families-in-need with raised-bed gardens and all the supplies they needed to grow organic vegetables at home, along with a full year of workshops about urban agriculture and healthy eating. Now, we are building on the success of the Home Gardening program with our new Super Jardineros apprenticeship, an opportunity for some of our most dedicated gardeners to gain professional-level horticultural skills and generate earned-income for themselves while contributing to the sustainability of this organization.

Rationale

While Santa Clara County’s median income is one of the highest in the nation, it is no secret that our region also has tremendous income inequality. A person would have to work three and a half full-time minimum wage jobs to support a family with two children in Santa Clara County. In short, many working families simply cannot make ends meet. Approximately 17% of children here live in food insecure households, meaning that they don’t have access to adequate food on a daily basis. Valley Verde begins to address these challenges through home gardening, which builds families’ food self-sufficiency and reduces grocery expenses. The Super Jardineros program takes this one step further by helping apprentices develop specialized job skills and increase their income through a small business model, which also contributes to the community’s food security.

About the Super Jardineros

Super Jardineros is a 3-year apprenticeship program that was launched in 2016. The three apprentices in our current cohort are all graduates of the Home Gardening program who have displayed extraordinary dedication to the program and continued motivation to learn. They are learning to grow commercial-quality organic vegetable seedlings, which they then sell to Valley Verde for use by the families in the Home Gardening program. Valley Verde installed a small greenhouse in the home of each apprentice, which is where they grow their seedlings, and a professional greenhouse manager visits each apprentice twice a month throughout the year in order to monitor progress and to provide one-on-one support and problem-solving.

In addition, Valley Verde has completed construction of a large community greenhouse this year in downtown San Jose, which will serve as a training venue and demonstration garden for both the Super Jardineros apprentices and the broader community. On site, a greenhouse manager will lead in-depth classes for the Super Jardineros, teaching them to grow a wider variety of seedlings on a larger scale. The seedlings grown at the greenhouse will be sold to the public on site and/or sold to local nurseries through a wholesale agreement, and proceeds will help fund the Super Jardineros program. As the scale and expertise of the program grows, Valley Verde may also facilitate vendor relationships between the Super Jardineros apprentices and local nurseries, so the apprentices can sell their seedlings on the retail market, in addition to selling them to Valley Verde for use in our Home Gardening program.

One unique aspect of this program is that the Super Jardineros are growing seedlings that reflect the cultural preferences of Santa Clara County’s largest ethnic groups, i.e. Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, and Filipino. Through years of working with local gardeners, we have found that many home gardeners are looking for seedlings that are not readily available in local nurseries such as bok choy, chayote, epazote, and okra. Valley Verde will fill this unique market niche while also growing traditional favorites like lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

In the first year of the program, each apprentice earned approximately $700 selling seedlings to Valley Verde for the families in our Home Gardening program. Now, in the second year of the program, the Super Jardineros apprentices are able to grow a greater number of higher quality seedlings, so we anticipate being able to purchase much more from them. In fact, each apprentice could earn up to $3,000 in seedling sales in 2017. After completion of their third year of the apprenticeship (in 2018), the Super Jardineros will have sufficient expertise to continue growing and selling seedlings professionally, either as independent home-based businesses or as employees of Valley Verde or a commercial nursery. Altogether, the Super Jardineros program helps participants move toward true self-sufficiency by learning professional-level nursery skills, increasing their income through entrepreneurship, and helping provide seedlings that will become home gardens for hundreds of other families in need.

Goals

Over the next 1-2 years, the Super Jardineros apprentices will:

  • – Develop the knowledge and skills needed to consistently grow commercial-quality organic seedlings.
  • – Generate additional earned income for themselves and their families by selling seedlings and/or obtaining skilled work in the horticultural industry.
  • – Grow enough high-quality seedlings for our Home Gardening participants, thereby supporting hundreds of families’ home gardens and reducing the program’s operating expenses.

 

Request

Valley Verde is working to raise funds for the Super Jardineros program from a variety of sources, including foundation grants, corporate contributions, and individual donations. In order to meet the goals described above, we especially need additional funding to support the services of a professional greenhouse manager who will provide ongoing training to the apprentices. Funds are also needed for ongoing gardening supply expenses and greenhouse maintenance.