Valencia Community Garden


Spring has sprung early for the Valencia Community Garden, and beginning Saturday, March 9, the soil at the Tomé garden site will find itself being tilled and turned in preparation for the first delicate seeds of the season.

Submitted photo: Valencia Community Garden members, pictured from left, Joyce Johns, Deb Christensen, Suzanne Taylor and Patricia Gillikin show their fruits of the labor last year at their garden in Tomé.

The gardeners consist of community members who have paid their $25 dues to participate in the creation of the communal garden and reap its bountiful rewards.

“It’s been wonderful,” says VCG President Debbie Christensen. “We always say community gardens are as much about community as about gardening.”

The non-profit status garden, which has around 25 members, began in 2009 as the brainchild of one former county resident, Rosemary Kaul.

Molly Madden, who joined the garden last year, said Kaul was inspired during a time when President Obama was pushing for the creation of community projects.

“Rosemary right away talked about feeding the people in the community with healthy food,” Madden said.

“A lot of people have wonderful ideas, but making them happen, Rosemary did that,” added Christensen.

In 2011, VCG received a grant that allowed members to hold free workshops in the community on canning and to work with the different youth groups, such as Summer of Service.

“It takes it one step further and teaches the community what to do with the food that’s grown,” said Joyce Johns Hutchinson, VCG treasurer, of the canning workshops.

And as for the school children who visit the garden, Madden says she is surprised at how, for a rural community, kids aren’t always aware of how food is grown or where it comes from.

VGC members also strives to have the garden be as organic as possible and plant only heirloom and organic, non-GMO seeds and plants, while staying away from chemical pesticides. Hutchinson and Christensen say their hope is to become a “teaching situation for the community” on how to get away from using chemicals.

But, they say, organic gardening, and gardening in general, can be a challenge that involves a lot of “experimenting.”

“There’s something about a garden,” says Christensen. “It doesn’t have to be picturesque. You have to think about what your goals are and our goals are to grow produce that we can use.”

Christensen said her family has been gardening in New Mexico for close to 40 years, and that for people who come from less arid parts of the country, adjusting to the unique growing conditions of the central Rio Grande Valley can be a challenge in of itself, another reason the community garden can be appealing.

Christensen said the garden creates an environment of sharing and learning from fellow gardeners with different degrees of experience.

The garden is also a great way for people to scratch their green thumb without being tied to a garden every day, all season long.

With a communal garden situation, if you take a vacation there are others there to fill in for you, though Christensen says many people still maintain a garden at home.

The minimum requirement of members is to work between two and four hours a week on work days or on their own time, and then, when harvest time arrives, members are able to take home produce they’ve helped bring to fruition. Any excess produce is then donated to food pantries and needy families.

The first meeting of the season will be at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Thrive Wellness Center, 2240 Main Street in Los Lunas. Interested persons can become members then or by simply showing up to the first work day, Saturday, March 9, at the garden behind the Tomé Art Gallery.

For information, contact Deb Christensen at 865-4070.

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