New life and hope are the themes this year in Independence, where committed residents, working together with Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action, Pioneer Memorial United Methodist Church, and Owens Valley Unified School District, have come together to create an oasis in the midst of the desert – or in this case, a garden in the midst of what has been in past years a parking lot and a baseball field.
The group will meet at the garden for a “Planting Party” at 9 a.m. this Saturday. The garden is located on Market Street, between Rosedale and Clay streets. All are welcome to participate; they’re asked only to bring work clothes and gardening tools, and be ready to get dirty.
According to Community Garden spokesperson Pastor Erin McPhee, while there are a few plots available for private citizens who desire their own growing space, the majority of the land set aside by the school for the garden is shared space. The largest plot, 25 by 75 feet, is “The Bunny Patch,” a ministry started by the church to help provide fresh produce for those with limited access to it (as a result of the closure of the town’s market a few years ago).
McPhee is providing administrative support for the Community Garden and pastoral oversight for the food ministry provided by “The Bunny Patch.”
“The mission of ‘The Bunny Patch’ is to fill hungry stomachs and thirsty souls with the good fruit of God’s love,” she said.
Folks from the church took a risk in mid-July last summer, when they amended the soil of a 25-by-25-foot plot with some manure donated by De la Coeur Ranch in Lone Pine, planted some extra crops donated by IMACA and Chalfant Tree Farm, and got to work.
“Despite the late planting date, the harvest was enough to provide fresh produce in the fall and early winter to 12 low-income households in Indy to help supplement the USDA surplus commodities they receive, and to the recipients of the Senior Lunch program in Independence, as well as providing fresh vegetables to Margaret Mairs, who prepared them for the town’s homebound seniors whom she cares for so lovingly,” McPhee said.
This year, the group has expanded to include many concerned citizens throughout Independence and Lone Pine.
“The seed of hope that was planted through the work of ‘The Bunny Patch’ has blossomed into a movement of renewal in our community,” McPhee said. “In an effort to encourage further participation in this exciting new project, Jim Stroh and Jan Yancey have generously donated up to $1,000 in matching funds, to go toward the Community Garden’s efforts.”
To add a gift to the matched donations, contact Pastor McPhee at (760) 878-2236.
According to McPhee, the whole town is getting involved in this new project. The Owens Valley School has graciously provided the land and water, and have promised to offer additional support as needed. In January, the Independence Civic Club donated $100 to go toward the installation of an irrigation system. IMACA, Steve Stevens (of Steve’s Auto Parts), and Stroh have donated many seeds to “The Bunny Patch” plot, while many others have donated money, hoses, timers, plants, potting soil, bunny fence and more. But most important, McPhee said, many in the community are donating their time and hard work to till, remove rocks, plan, nurture seedlings, plant, water, weed, grow, harvest and dream.
In addition, 13 fruit trees have been donated to the community garden, and planted around the north perimeter, many in memory of loved ones, by these generous friends: Sharon Avey, Jim and Sandee Bilyeu, Children of Keith and Jane Bright, Larry and Sharon Clark, Elaine Delaney, Roberta Harlan, The Hopper Family, Carl and Luella King, Alisa Lynch, Jim Stroh and Jan Yancey and Jane and Michel Wehrey.
“We are also thankful to Bishop Nursery for giving us a discount on trees at the end of the season last winter,” McPhee said. “The fruit from these trees will be for the whole community to share and enjoy.”
Stroh, one of the key volunteers, and the man behind the restoration and operation of the town tiller, noted that “anyone is welcome to trade sweat for food” in the community plots. McPhee said it isn’t just about giving nutritious food to those who have limited access to fresh produce, but also about empowering the community.
“We want everybody to be involved in some way, even if it is just to help pick a tomato, or water, or pull a few weeds,” said Sharon Avey, another volunteer and church member. “Everyone is welcome to come down and see what we are doing, and find a way to be a part of it.”
All involved are looking forward to a wonderful crop this year – one that will not only provide fresh produce for those with limited access to it, but also provide the community with a new vision for the future.
“We are all looking forward to seeing how the garden will grow this year and be a blessing to our community,” McPhee said. The group hopes to have enough produce to be able to preserve some for the winter, so that the garden can continue to provide good nutrition for those in need throughout the year. One way they are hoping to expand next year is by building a Hoop House, which would allow year-round growing and protect young seedlings from the harsh weather of early spring. While Jane McDonald, IMACA Community Services director, has applied for numerous grants to help with this endeavor, this is still on the group’s “wish list.”
Other needs on the “wish list” are:
• Volunteers to remove rocks from the garden plots so the tiller blade will not break on them, and to help plant, water, and maintain community portions of the garden.
• Donations of materials for the installation of an Irrigation System (or about $150 for their purchase).
• Materials and volunteers to sand and repaint the bench by the North gate, and secure it so it won’t blow over in the wind.
• Funds for plaques for donated trees (13 at $7 each). Plaques will say the type of tree, the donor’s name, and the memorial information.
• Plants/seeds: green bean bushes, Romano pole beans, collards, kale.
• Donations of a wheelbarrow and other gardening tools to keep in the red shed on the south side of the garden.
• Combination lock for the shed door.
• Weed-free mulch/compost.
Thanks to the donation of a covered bulletin board by the Owens Valley School, which will be hung on the east exterior wall of the Kid’s Club building, there will be space to put up notices about upcoming work days, contact information, the garden’s wish list, and so on.