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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

Featured Stories

Growing Community

by Sandé LollisJuly 2024

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.  —Margaret Mead

San Carlos Community Garden group.

At the San Carlos Community Garden, that small group is even more distinctive as the board of directors is comprised entirely of women. Vice Chair Gayle Mills finds this notable, saying, “That’s beautiful.” Reflecting on her involvement in various projects, she remarked, “Okay, we’re doing all this stuff and there’s no men? Right on!” She continues, “Carol Lockwood, chair emeritus, is one of the best leaders I’ve ever known…We have a good volunteer army, but it’s women who are leading the garden.”

Chair Kelly Wood is quick to acknowledge the dedicated male counterparts: Michael Land, who is in charge of the composting; James Hyde, who oversees the food bank program; and Alan Comstock, who supports maintenance of the orchard. The rest of the small but effective board is Jeanne Bauer, financial officer; April Lowe, master gardener; and Leslie Nelson.

But you may be asking yourself, “Why are we talking about gardening in the Troubadour?” Yes, yes, I’ll get to that. It’ll be worth it.

I sat at a weathered picnic table in the garden with Kelly and Gayle one Sunday morning, before the season had gotten so hot. They are friendly and forthcoming, and ultimately enthusiastic and committed members of the force that keeps SCCG on its toes and moving forward. When I asked about their mission statement, they listed their four guiding principles, which were decided on even before they put a shovel in the ground: Gardening for nutrition and beauty, knowledge for healthy living and earth stewards, collaboration of neighbors and schools, and spirit through inspiration and healing. Kelly added, “Through those four pillars and everything that we’ve done over the years…what grew out of that too was our tagline, which is ‘growing community.’ And so, over time, we kept saying, ‘Yeah, we’re pretty good at growing stuff in here, but we’re better at growing community.’”

Members of the Communnity Garden with a gorgeous display of vegetables.

Community it is. With the garden producing all that food, a natural course of thinking led them to partner with Good Shepherd Ministry in El Cajon, which runs a food bank from their church. A couple of years ago, SCCG got serious about contributing even more and allocated six of their garden plots to the food bank program.

Blue Shield provided a work group that helped to build structures on the fencing to protect the plots from wild animals. James delivered their most recent donation of radishes, greens, and turnips to the food bank, and depending on how long things take to grow, this will probably happen two or three more times over the summer.

In addition to the six plots, they’ve recently expanded the garden along the back fence to grow peppers for a large donation at the end of the season. Once the orchard starts producing and fruit harvest season begins, the table will be filled with offerings from people bringing in citrus and other fruit from their own gardens.

Since the beginning in 2012, they involved the community by design. They held public meetings for months to determine what was important to everyone. For the garden to be successful, they knew that was the way to go. Some said they wanted an herb garden, some wanted educational components, others wanted a place for meditation and reflection, and still others wanted an amphitheater for music and concerts and movies.

Fast forward to last summer, and you would see us sitting at the same table discussing the addition of music at the monthly produce swap, held on the fourth Saturday of every month from 9:30-11am. My band, Enter the Blue Sky and I, were happy to be part of their programming to help bring awareness and boost participation in the food bank donation program. When they mentioned they were thinking of having someone organize a summer concert series, I couldn’t get the words out quickly enough. I blurted, “I’m your girl!” And that was that.

Now planning the second year, Kelly shared her thoughts on the inaugural year and what it meant to the garden. “It was really this concert series last summer that kicked off this…whole idea of promoting ourselves as a place, you know, where people can bring in non-perishable food items that we can donate, so we incorporate that into some of our events. …We collected a ton of food during the Spring Festival.” They continue to promote that concept, and the momentum has grown significantly. Now, more people know that if there’s an event, they can bring food, and it’s becoming a habit for them.

Less than a year ago, they began focusing more on their partnership with Good Shepherd and increasing community involvement. The “Stuff the Pantry” summer concert series helps spread the word and raises awareness.

This Year’s Series

Thea Tochihara, Sandé Lollis, and Mark Montijo perform at the Community Garden.

For three consecutive months, the third Friday brings some of the best singer-songwriters in San Diego to the garden for an intimate time of sharing their music and stories. Beginning July 19, the series opener will feature returning 2023 artists Jeff Berkley, Julia Sage, and Lindsay White.

Julia shared, “The San Carlos Community Garden concert series is one of those I just can’t say no to when I get asked to play. Food donation has a special place in my heart, because I know how hard the lack of food is on families, especially those with small children. Plus, I get to play in a beautiful, loving place and share the stage with wonderful friends. It’s a win all around.”

Lindsay said, “So excited to be returning to the summer concert series with my buddies Jeff and Julia! Live original music plus nature plus summer = a trifecta of feel-good medicine for the soul!”

On August 16, I am pleased to be one of the performers, along with Astra Kelly, and Omar Musisko, who had this to say, “I like to think it’s every artist’s dream to have their art serve anyone besides themselves. For me, being part of an event like this is an honor that resonates within that dream.”

Finally, on September 20, we have returning artist Cathryn Beeks, Peter Bolland, and Micah Justice. They each commented on their involvement. Cathryn said, “Being part of the community garden summer concert series is such an honor! The gardens are simply enchanting and singing songs to the sweet folks who gather there is one of the highlights of my summer.”

Enter the Blue Sky at a performance last year.

Peter related, “Community gardens are the perfect metaphor for what a neighborhood should be—a place where we co-exist in deep cooperation with one another, and with the processes of nature, to cultivate what is best in us. Plus, if you’re lucky, you get some really great tomatoes out of it. It’s this garden-by-garden, hands-on engagement that’s going to pull this whole crazy, fractured world back together, and I’m honored to play a tiny part in that process.”

Micah added, “It is such a privilege to be able to participate in the community garden summer concert series. The food donation program is an awesome way to care for and share with people who need a helping hand. The venue is a perfect setting for people to come and enjoy this intimate concert. I appreciate the opportunity to use my gift and passion to help others.”

For myself, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to curate the SCCG summer concert series again and to participate as a performer. However, the true highlight for me is being a part of this movement of community care. Witnessing the collective efforts of everyone involved with the garden—whether they are sharing their harvest with those in need or organizing food donations—brings me immense joy and fulfillment.

The Details
The garden opens at 5pm, music is from 6-8pm
Remember to bring non-perishable food to donate

July 19 – Jeff Berkley, Julia Sage, Lindsay White
Food Truck service provided by Surf Me A Taco

August 16 – Astra Kelly, Sandé Lollis, Omar Musisko
Food Truck service provided by Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers

September 20 – Cathryn Beeks, Peter Bolland, Micah Justice
Food Truck service provided by Big Oven Pizza

For more information about the series and the garden, visit sancarloscommunitygarden.com/summer-concert-series

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