Terry Ramsey, a client at VTC Enterprises, searches through tomato plants pulling dead leaves Thursday at the new Vocational Training Center community garden in Santa Maria. Food collected from the garden, which was made possible with the help of the City of Santa Maria, will be donated to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
September 02, 2013 1:00 am • Brian Bullock/[email protected]
Community gardens, by nature, bring people together. The new community garden at Vocational Training Center in Santa Maria is also bringing organizations together.
VTC, which provides vocational and life skills training for approximately 360 individuals on the Central Coast, Engel and Gray Inc., the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County are all working together on a project whose benefits will reach far beyond those groups.
A plot of tomatoes grown at the new community garden at VTC will be donated to the foodbank and will go to feed needy families and individuals in the North County.
“We rely on the food donations of our local growers and even people with backyard gardens for about 10 percent of our food,” said Foodbank Development Manager Judi Monte said. “Tomatoes, when they are vine-ripened, are great source of nutrition and we are looking forward to the donation from VTC.”
The garden is being developed on land on the VTC campus previously covered with offices and classrooms. When the organization’s new building opened a little over a year ago and its old buildings — remnants of the old Bracero farm workers program from World War II — were removed, a large plot of land along A Street in western Santa Maria was made vacant.
At the time, the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department was searching for more land to use for community gardens and VTC was looking for more programs for its clients. So it was a match made in heaven.
Engel and Gray, Inc., which produces Harvest Blend compost, got involved when the dirt that sat covered by barracks for roughly 50 years needed to be enriched. Through the U.S. Composting Council’s Million Tomato Compost Campaign, the company provided the tomatoes, compost and baskets to grow a plot of vine-ripened beauties.
“We’re helping lay it out and set it up. VTC, then, is going to water the tomatoes and will shortly be harvesting the tomatoes and delivering them to the foodbank,” said Chuck Nagel, field representative for Harvest Blend and Engel and Gray. “It helps us show how compost helps grow things.”
VTC crews, who perform a variety of services for both private businesses and governmental agencies all over the Central Coast, have been helping tend to the vegetables since they were planted May 22.
Sal Ruiz, who has been at VTC for 19 years supervising work groups, said they will probably harvest the plants sometime over the next couple of weeks and deliver the produce to the foodbank.
“It’s just something different to give our guys to do. They enjoy coming to water and enjoy harvesting,” Ruiz said.
In addition to providing food for the foodbank, Jason Telander, VTC’s new chief executive officer, said the garden is benefiting VTC, as well.
“It’s a good cooperative between us, the city, Engel and Gray and the foodbank. It’s bringing four organizations together,” Telander said. “We’re trying to bring community members to VTC – sort of a reverse integration kind of thing.”
Leslie Canady, a client of VTC Enterprises, waters tomato plants.
VTC Enterprise employees visit the new community garden Thursday at the Vocational Training Center in Santa Maria. Food collected from the garden, which was made possible with the help of the City of Santa Maria, will be donated to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
Chuck Nagel, a field representative of Harvest Blend Compost, searches through tomato plants to pull dead leaves Thursday at the new community garden VTC Vocational Training Center in Santa Maria. The company donated soil, tomato plants and other materials to the garden.
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