Budgeting project proposes 10 Vallejo community gardens

By Irma Widjojo/Times-Herald staff writer/
Posted: 03/25/2013 01:00:26 AM PST

Editor's note: Hundreds of Vallejoans have pitched projects to help the community as part of the city's new Participatory Budgeting project. This is the latest in an occasional series on different project proposals. 

If things go their way, there might be fresh vegetables and fruit at almost every corner in Vallejo. 

People's Garden on Mare Island is one of the first community gardens in the city, and its coordinator Vilma Aquino plans to help others develop their own garden. 

Aquino has submitted a proposal for $135,000 to realize the goal. 

Participatory Budgeting Vallejo is an effort launched with City Council approval last spring, and will end its first year with a public ballot in May. The council voted to set aside 30 percent of the 2011 sales tax hike revenue to fund community-requested projects, with estimates of up to $3.2 million available. 

With the money, there would be 10 gardens all over Vallejo, Aquino said. 

The locations are: Loma Vista Farm, The Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club, Global Center for Success, Renaissance Family Center, St. Vinnie's Community Garden, Jesse Bethel High School, Cave Language Academy, Mira Theatre Guild, California Maritime Academy and Kyle's Temple AME Zion Church. 

Some of these locations already have community gardens, like Loma Vista Farm. However, the funding also would be used to expand or develop the existing gardens, Aquino said. 

Each garden would receive different amounts depending on their needs, she added. 

"There are empty lots all over Vallejo," Aquino said. "Why not beautify the area by creating these gardens, using non synthetic fertilizers." 

Aesthetics is not the only factor behind the program. 

Amanda Cundiff, of the U.S. Forest Service, said Vallejo needs community gardens because of the lack of fresh food. 

"There's a lot of food desert in Vallejo," Cundiff said. "Children can learn where their food comes from, and the community will have better access to fresh food." 

The U.S. Forest Service has been involved with the People's Garden by providing volunteers to the Mare Island garden. 

"The people that we are working with are committed," Aquino said. 

Cundiff said all it takes is the initial funding to start. 

"We don't have a lot of money in our budget right now," Cundiff said. "It took us the initial plug to get the attention of the community, and volunteers." 

Aquino received a $25,000 grant in 2010 by Nature's Path Organic to start People's Garden. Now the garden has 11 regular volunteers and 200 people in its mailing list, Aquino said. The Mare Island garden is a nonprofit that donates fresh, organic food to the poor in the community, mostly to seniors. 

The different projects will be displayed at three different Project Expos in April. The first one is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., April 17, at the Dan Foley Cultural Center, 1461 North Camino Alto. After the expos, the public can vote for the best project in May. 

To learn about People's Garden, visit vallejopeoplesgarden.org. For more information on Participatory Budgeting Vallejo, visit www.pbvallejo.org.

image caption
Seen through the blades of a rake, Vilma Aquino of People's Community Garden and Amanda Cundiff with the U.S. Forest Service, center, look at new gardening tools donated by Touro University students on Mare Island. Aquino is looking to expand community gardening throughout Vallejo. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)