Community garden project in Belen set to involve neighbors, youth

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Building a community one seed at a time. That's the aim with the community garden springing up at Dalies Avenue and North Sixth St. in Belen

By spring, Dubra Karnes-Padilla, the project's chairwoman, wants raised gardening beds with fertile soil in place for community members to start planting.

"We want to create a beautiful spot," Karnes-Padilla said. "We want it to be a source of life in Belen."

El Corazon de Belen Garden Park, an intergenerational project, is a place where community members can come together to grow food by using sustainable techniques, Karnes-Padilla said.

"It creates an opportunity where we work with neighbors to collaborate and share with neighbors, and teach kids how to be good neighbors and responsible for their community," she said.

The project's mission statement outlines the community garden as a place to support and create vegetables grown naturally without pesticides, food production for the community, increase youth involvement, educate community members about natural gardening and sustainable living techniques and provide service learning opportunities.

A percentage of the food grown will go to the Belen Area Food Pantry, and residents can also apply to receive food.

The park would sustain hardy vegetables and herbs, which can survive in New Mexico's climate and soil.

Since there isn't a budget for the park, it's coming together through community donations, Karnes-Padilla said.

"People are donating their time and expertise," she said. "We're looking for the community to help us."

Students in Summer of Service, a hands-on learning effort aimed to offer students an opportunity to solve community issues, built and painted 10 wooden garden boxes for the park.

BNSF donated $2,000 for a fence to enclose the park.

Liza Bley, with Boy Scouts of America, will bring a group to paint and pull weeds at the garden on Saturday, Oct. 22.

The project stemmed from a University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus course, the Resiliency Core, where students examine results from the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey and find ways to increase resiliency in youth. The survey accounts for risk behaviors and protective factors in New Mexico public school students, particularly those in middle school and high school.

Karnes-Padilla said the survey gives an indication of what is going on in the state and county and what areas need work.

"It lets us know how youth are feeling in a variety of areas," she said.

Participating in a community garden is an evidenced-based strategy aimed to get students involved in the community and address problems identified by the survey, Karnes-Padilla said.

A community garden is set up at H. T. Jaramillo Community School. Through this garden, Karnes-Padilla said students learn how to grow their own food with sustainable living techniques.

"Some kids don't know how to cook anymore," she said. "They don't know where their food comes from … and that's a useful skill for life, but not everyone is getting that."

To make a monetary donation to the community garden, residents can make deposits at Belen's City Hall under the community garden account.

To volunteer with the community garden park, contact Dubra Karnes-Padilla at 925-8832, or email Bob White at quailster@gmail.com.


Contact Abigail R. Ortiz