Thursday, 02 February 2023

Community garden under way in Clearlake

CLEARLAKE – What began as a casual conversation at the Judge’s Breakfast in Clearlake a year ago has blossomed into a series of connections that has fostered the development of agreements and partnerships between the county of Lake, the city of Clearlake, the Highlands Senior Service Center (HSSC), the Lake County Community Co-op (LCCC) and the Konocti Unified School District (KUSD).

While each partner in the project had envisioned the idea of a community garden, the recent wave of renewal of the local food movement, and particularly community gardens, whisked the idea into a working relationship that at this writing consists of a $40,000 allocation by the county of Lake for the creation of a community garden at the Clearlake Senior Community Center.

The provision, secured by Supervisor Jeff Smith, includes completion of the center landscaping and the bulk of the garden infrastructure.

The organic garden, which will be co-managed by the Highlands Senior Service Center and the Lake County Community Co-op, will consist of three different models to help meet the needs of the community.

One section will be reserved for the senior center to utilize for their daily meal programs that includes meals served on site at noon each weekday and the Meals on Wheels service to homebound seniors.

The additional fresh vegetables to the cuisine will not only add a refreshing flavor twist to the meals but will contribute to healthier nutrition for the center’s clientèle and help stretch the center’s food budget.

“Most of our clientèle grew up with gardens and fresh produce daily. A return to this in our community will boost more than nutrition – it’ll raise the spirits of our seniors, an unquantifiable benefit,” said Senior Center Executive Director Linda J. Burton.

Another section of the garden will be one that gardeners can work in exchange for food, as well as provide excess for local food programs, such as the Lake County Community Action Agency (LCCAA).

While the LCCAA’s budget has been hit hard due to the recent economic crisis, the demand for services has increased dramatically as the number of working poor continues to increase.

In addition, high school seniors in KUSD have recently been given a community service component requirement for graduation. They can take advantage of working at the garden as a means to meet this requirement, as well as develop connections with their food source. This model is nothing new to KUSD superintendent Bill MacDougall who fostered a school garden program and a community service component at Carlé High School where he was principal for 14 years.

In another section of the garden, small plots will be rented out to individuals, families and organizations desiring to custom design the types and number of crops grown.

Here, for a small annual fee that covers the cost of the plot, folks can plant anything they like, as long as it is legal and grown organically and/or biodynamically. Preference for these plots will be seniors aged 55 and over.

“With the large population of seniors just across the street, we’re hoping they’ll want to take advantage of the convenience the community garden offers,” noted Burton, referring to the senior housing complexes across the street from the center.

David Goolsbee, a director on the board of the LCCC and community garden project coordinator for the co-op, designed a concept vision of the garden that includes a water feature, benches and an ADA compliant raised bed design intended to help aid an easier process in gardening for the senior and disabled populations in Clearlake.

The committee that moves the project forward includes Clearlake City Councilman Curt Giambruno, who worked diligently in procuring the information needed to install the irrigation system and Clearlake Vice Mayor Judy Thein, who was instrumental in obtaining the well agreement from the adjoining property owner.

Many other members of the community are already involved including Thomas Vallot, Russell Kramer, Rainbow Agriculture and Ed Stromeyer, who have all worked with the city on the infrastructure plans, making it a community-wide effort.

Long-term hopes for the project are to include a solar-run operation that will also generate power for the community center building itself, which will further assist the city and the senior center in lessening their footprint as well as their ongoing operational costs.

The dead and dying walnut trees that once marked the property on Bowers Avenue in Clearlake have been cleared by the city of Clearlake Public Works Crew and volunteer Thomas Vallot.

City Public Works Supervisor Doug Herren facilitated the trees' removal and also assisted in procuring and cutting the smaller limbs for donation to needy seniors in the community.

A few loads are available and low-income seniors interested can contact Burton at 707-994-3051 through July 15 for an application. There is a need for a volunteer with a truck that would be willing to load and deliver the wood to those seniors that are unable to navigate the wood themselves.

Next on the project list is clearing the roots and tilling the soil, which will open the way to fencing the property. The co-op is committed to coordinating the community and donations as much as possible for the project. They now host a community garden page with a comprehensive wish list on their wikisite by following the links from .

With items needed that range from 3/4-inch PVC pipe, to 6-foot fencing, to seeds and pruning tools, to a co-op committee coordinator, there is ample opportunity for the community to co-create the project from start to finish.

And for those that want to contribute, but don’t have any of the items on the wish list, individuals and organizations are welcome to co-sponsor different projects on the site, such as benches, arbors, picnic tables, fruit trees, the green house, etc.

The co-op also plans to hold a design contest for the entrance gate that will utilize recycled material.

For more information and to donate directly for these projects, contact Goolsbee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Burton at 707-994-3051.

The community garden in Clearlake is one of many efforts in the larger community to reconnect Americans to their food sources.

With the average meal traveling 1,200 miles from grower to plate, the local food movement has gained popularity in response to rising oil prices, peak oil and global warming issues.

“A deeper commitment to sourcing food locally contributes to the sustainability of our food production system,” added Goolsbee, “and a commitment to organic production, even more so.”

JoAnn Saccato is chair of the Lake County Community Co-op and masters student in SSU’s Hutchins School Action for a Viable Future program. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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