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February 10, 2011
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Gardening 101

The current spell of balmy, late spring-like weather is prompting visions of planting a bountiful vegetable garden in the minds of many local residents - so a class Saturday on site design, assessing your yard and planning a successful garden is perfect timing.

But that's not the only home-gardening class being offered by Living Lands Agrarian Network, a non-profit organization that offers training and mentorship to the next generation of farmers.

Saturday's offering kicks off a workshop series that goes beyond how to cultivate annual vegetables, and offers local homeowners a holistic approach for sustainably growing more food at home, according to Living Lands' Rachel Berry.

The class offerings are diverse and include topics such as planting a perennial "food forest," saving water through various home harvesting techniques, and mushroom cultivation.

"The people teaching (the classes) are the people who are doing it a lot, they have the experience," said farmer Tim Van Wagner. "It's a mini-apprenticeship. You're learning from somebody who has failed and who has succeeded. It's like a cookbook - it's taking advantage of someone else's time and energy (to master a subject)."

Tapping into that shared knowledge is exactly what drew Bishop Randall to Saturday's class.

"I wanted to learn more about farming in this area, and interact with more people in the community," Randall said. "I need to learn (more) about gardening, I'm kind of a greenhorn. Also, just connecting with other like-minded people and take this vision a little bit farther."

Randall said he moved to Nevada County in part because he wanted to get involved in sustainable living and a larger community of farmers.

"It's about producing my own food," he said. "It's also about not just me being on my own piece of property ... When we isolate ourselves in our own little world, not nearly as many ideas are given and traded. There's so much knowledge to be shared."

Van Wagner said he has seen the level of support for and awareness of good food take off - and he suspects the interest in growing your own food has also exploded.

Auburn resident Sandy Bedorf, who is enrolled in Saturday's class, echoed Van Wagner's assessment, adding, "Most of my friends, we're much more concerned about our health, the environment ... We want to know what we're putting in our bodies."

She chose the site design workshop so she could be "more intelligent" about the way she designs her home garden, she said.

"I do mainly container gardening right now," Bedorf said. "We have a half-acre, and last summer we earmarked a corner of the back yard to design a home garden, but we didn't get that far."

For the last couple of years, Living Lands has offered an eight-class series, and people signed up for the entire series. This year, they can sign up for one or all of the 10 workshops on offer.

"We wanted to give people options," Van Wagner said.

He is especially enthused about the fence-building class he will teach on March 5.

"People get discouraged because deer keep getting in their garden," he said. "This will be hands-on - they will help build a section of fence."

Class topics will include a discussion of various fencing options for the garden, a review of which animals in our region you want to protect your garden from (and how they like to enter), a discussion on how to securely fence in chickens and other backyard animals, how to properly lay out your fence, and hands-on experience in the construction of a 7-foot deer fence at one of the newest Living Lands Agrarian Network's 10 farm sites.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

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The Union Updated Feb 10, 2011 11:51PM Published Feb 10, 2011 11:46PM Copyright 2011 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.