Students help build community garden

By Lily Simon
        The Pitzer in Ontario program continues work towards a sustainable community garden for the Ontario community. This year, with much excitement, the garden was moved to the Huerta del Valle location; for the first time, Pitzer in Ontario will be constructing their internship garden on city-owned land. The Kaiser “Heal Zone” grant will fund the garden, which will become a community-run space for education, training, and urban agriculture in the Huerta del Valle community.
        This year, students had the opportunity to work for the Huerta del Valle garden project, the Pronto Market Makeover project, the Wheelhouse Bike Co-op, Warehouse Workers United, or Inland Congregations United for Change.
        Huerta del Valle will be on city land at Bon View Park in Ontario and managed by the individuals—local community members—who have plots on that land.
        “We’re [eventually] trying to separate the Pitzer College name from the project so that it can be as community-driven as possible,” says Sophomore Shannon Leap, the Pitzer intern for the garden. Wesley Quevedo, a Junior at Pomona, is also a garden intern.
        Lucy Block, Pitzer in Ontario Urban Fellow and Pomona ’11 graduate, is supervising the Huerta del Valle project.
        “We’re interested in mapping our local food landscape and how a community-driven garden can promote community health,” she says. Block also finds it important for student interns to be immersed in the community, and to talk to individuals and hear their stories.
        “Community involvement has begun, but we are waiting to finalize details of our use of city land in order to really move forward with outreach and with identifying community members to become leaders in the project,” says Block.
        Pitzer in Ontario interns are working with the garden manager, Maria Teresa Alonso.  Block and the interns are also interesting in incorporating Ontario school students in the garden once it makes some leeway from the city. The garden will also be promoted to Ontario youth as a service opportunity for court-mandated community service.
        “Because the garden is still very much in its very beginning stages, we have been working on obtaining city permits and planning the layout of the garden itself,” says Leap. Law students from the UC Irvine Community and Economic Development law clinic are giving the interns free legal advice.
        The project has exciting long-term goals in order to support Ontario communities.
        “We will be working with the Ontario City Planning Department to revise local zoning, planning, and development codes to support community gardens,” says Block.
        Interns will be conducting research to determine the needs for the Huerta del Valle community and what they are planning to gain from having a community garden. Analysis is conducted in the Ontario program class,“Applied Qualitative Methods,” taught by Tessa Hicks.
        “I think my highest goal for the project is that the community gains a sense of empowerment through the garden. I think this is possible – growing your own food can be extremely empowering because you are literally powering yourself,” says Leap.
        “Personally, I am already gaining a better understanding of the Ontario community and how to build a community garden from step one…I’ve been able to meet many different people with many different goals for the garden and balancing these has been a great learning process,” she says.
        The program in general requires participating students to complete a 150-hour internship for the semester as part of their academic requirement. Pitzer in Ontario is a full course load, with 3 required academic courses and the internship.
        Pitzer in Ontario director Susan Phillips sees bright futures for the interns; “That our students can be part of the actions that lead to change is the goal of our program, and we feel really lucky to be in the place and time where we are, in our relationships in the community, with the City of Ontario, and with one another,” says Phillips.
        Those not involved in the Pitzer in Ontario program are encouraged to help with the garden once it reaches its more mature stages. Soon, they will have work days that include composting. The program will need help with outreach.
        “Students that are interested in community organizing are welcome to help usout,” says Block. Those interested should contact Lucy Block at lucy_block@pitzer.edu.

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