Grant Awarded to Expand I.V. Community Garden

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Photo Courtesy of Isla Vista Student Ministry | University United Methodist Church

Alondra Sierra
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

The University United Methodist Church has been awarded a grant of $11,090 from the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) to expand the Isla Vista Community Garden, a collaboration between the United Methodist Church and UCSB’s Campus Edible Program.

The grant will go towards growing the size of the garden and increasing awareness and involvement from Isla Vista’s longterm Latino residents and students.

Planted on the corner of Camino del Sur and Sueno, the community garden can be found outside the United Methodist Church building — a structure built in the early 1960s, now laden with structural issues that render it obsolete for worship.

To make the most of the building, its interior now serves as a warming center for Isla Vista’s homeless during harsh weather, and its once vacant landscape is now an expanding community garden to address food insecurity in the community.

The idea for the garden, which has been open to the public since October, began over two years ago.

“In the beginning, I really doubted that [the garden] would be a worthwhile project for a church, but I completely stand corrected,” said Pastor Frank Schaefer, who has been at the church since 2014.

Having no experience in community gardening, Pastor Frank, along with his church committee, reached out to UCSB Sustainability last spring, forming a collaboration with the Edible Campus Program, a campus coalition aimed at addressing food insecurity through sustainable food production.

Since its development, the Edible Campus Program has constructed an urban orchid of citrus trees under Storke Plaza, a vertical garden at the Recreational Center, and a student farm at West Campus — all of which harvest produce that is then distributed through the Associated Students Food Bank.

Back in May 2018, the garden received its first grant from the United Methodist Church of $5,750, according to Pastor Frank, around the same time that the IVCSD had also initially approved their grant that would be awarded to fund the garden.

But, technical issues arose that prevented the IVCSD to award the grant to the Edible Campus Program — of which the garden is under direction — and instead, almost a year later, the grant was given to the United Methodist Church to allocate funds.

The approved grant proposal outlines plans for raised beds, new benches, soil and seeds, a native California plant and pond area, and a pizza oven.

“We have only built out about half of the growing spaces that we hope to create,” said Katie Maynard, UCSB Sustainability coordinator. Organizers behind the fenceless garden, including the church committee, have a vision of a community-driven space where anyone is welcome to learn about cultivating plants and harvesting their own, while also serving as a place to socialize.

The proposed native plant and pond area, for example, will be a meditation and spiritual spot for community members in addition to the garden, which is spearheaded by student intern Whitner Grange, a second-year environmental studies major. The grant will also cover the costs for a bilingual intern, newly hired third-year sociology major Adriana Meza Gonzalez, to do outreach within Isla Vista’s longterm Latino family community.

“It’s very important to include [the Latino community] because they are not only supporting themselves, but also their families,” said Gonzalez. “Having a resource like the community garden that doesn’t require them to pay a fee for a plot or anything is very helpful.”

While plans for expanding the garden begin, the Isla Vista Community Garden joins the ranks of St. Michael’s and Estero Gardens — both plot-based — as an open and public garden for and by the community.

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