Gardens gear up for another bountiful season |

Gardens gear up for another bountiful season

Shirl Mendonca
Special to The Union

Now in its fourth year, the Healthy Harvest Food Bank Garden in Grass Valley is gearing up to offer another season of fresh fruits and vegetables to its food bank distributions.

Thanks to community donations of land, fencing, soil preparation, lumber, soil, irrigation hardware, etc., and countless volunteer hours, there are now 66 raised beds that are efficiently designed and irrigated to grow non-GMO/organic food for more than 4,200 individuals each month. Under the keen vision and dedication of Ellen Persa, the Grass Valley garden is running smoothly.

In its second year, the Penn Valley program is well on its way, but as a newer project, it could use a few more volunteers. Ideally, the program would like two more teams of volunteers who can work a two- or three-hour weekly schedule that includes weeding, harvesting and packing veggies for distribution.

If you love to garden or need a good project to sink your teeth into, you could be an integral part of this garden. The Penn Valley garden is located on Spenceville Road, across from the rodeo grounds, on the site of the future Penn Valley Community Center; the gardens are fenced off at the back of the five-acre parcel.

Together, these two gardens are providing over four tons of fresh produce each year. Imagine how much more can be grown if the Penn Valley garden is expanded? At the Grass Valley gardens, local teams, clubs and service groups, including the Nevada Union and Bear River High School athletes, Boy Scout troops and Knights of Columbus volunteers have stepped up to help with larger efforts like moving dirt, rototilling and preparing boxes for planting. Maybe you have a group that wants to do similar work in Penn Valley.

Currently, the "core" group of volunteers for the PV garden includes coordinator Joyce Hammer, along with Susan and Pete Molloy, Marilyn Schoenlein, Suzy Marvin, David Peters, Andrea and Blaine Vetter, Lorraine Cooper and Jon and Gwen Smedberg.

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This group has been busy planning the gardens and the watering system, installing fencing for climbing plants, weeding, harvesting and delivering fresh veggies to the food bank. In addition to their normal group activities in the garden, they take turns checking on the garden at least semi-weekly.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity of local donors. A big thank you to Brad Fowler for bringing in cows, goats and sheep to clear the land, and to Mike McCulley, Andy Adams and the Bear River football and basketball teams for preparing the soil and creating rows for planting. Gold n' Green helped with equipment and manpower, and Louie Osterude (formerly of Empire Fence) installed the underground water delivery system and added faucets.

Supplies and organic plants were donated by Rare Earth, B&C, Peaceful Valley, A to Z, Nevada County Farm Supply, Penn Valley True Value and Randi Pratini of Fresh Starts.

If you want to join a garden team, donate, or if you have a group that would like to help, please contact Ellen Persa at 530-432-1143 or at Cash donations are also welcome. In addition, there is a need for a couple of wheelbarrows, hand tools, a few garbage cans, hoses, clean plastic berry and lettuce-size containers, and a picnic table with benches so the volunteers can meet and discuss their work under a nice shade tree.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at

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