Valley Verde has built on the success of the Shared Garden Program with the Super Jardineros (Super Gardeners). A 2-year apprenticeship program, it provides an opportunity for some of our most dedicated gardeners to gain professional-level horticultural skills and increase their income through a small-business model, all while contributing to the sustainability of their communities and the organization.
Valley Verde provides the participants with custom mini-greenhouses that are installed in the Super Jardineros backyards, and have a production capacity of 500 seedlings per spring and fall season.
One unique aspect of this program is that the Super Jardineros learn to propagate seedlings by growing varieties that reflect the cultural preferences of Santa Clara County's largest ethnic groups, i.e. Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, and Filipino. These ethnic seedlings, such as bok choy, chayote, epazote, and okra are not readily available in local nurseries, and our program helps create much-needed sources for these vegetable seedlings.
A Valley Verde Greenhouse professional also provides training in nursery care and one-on-one support to monitor the process and ensure commercial-quality seedlings are grown.
The Super Jardineros have become the seedling growers and providers for our Shared Garden and Deep Roots Program families. By growing high-quality seedlings they can provide 1/3 of the seedlings we give to our participant families each season, including their culturally preferred vegetables and herbs.
Valley Verde purchases these quality seedlings from the Super Jardineros, providing them with a pathway to earn disposable income for their families. In addition to increasing their resiliency, gardeners also build their cultural traditions while taking leadership roles in the growing urban agriculture movement.
SOCIAL BUSINESS MODEL
Along with benefiting the broader community by providing access to culturally preferred seedlings, we foresee this model as a way to build a community food system and circular economy, through which Valley Verde becomes a sustainable organization and community.
We teach our families, and Super Jardineros, specialized job skills, we provide them with the possibility of earning additional income, while diversifying the seedling market and providing access to culturally preferred vegetables.
Scaling this project into a food system and generating an income stream will allow us to reach more families, and create more leadership and entrepreneurship opportunities to empower low-income communities.