The city of Napa may soon be in the gardening business.
Community members with the Napa County Local Food Advisory Council are working on a pilot program to establish community gardens throughout the city that would be administered by Napa’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Ideally, there will someday be community gardens within walking distance of most city residents, said Councilwoman Juliana Inman, who serves on the Food Advisory Council’s subcommittee tasked with developing the pilot program.
“We don’t want this to be a heavily subsidized activity, but it’s an important thing for people to be able to grow their own food,” Inman said. “This gives people a chance to actually grow some vegetables, increase the healthy food supply, reduce food insecurity. There are a lot of good reasons to have community gardens.”
Community gardens are part of the city’s parks master plan. For the past five years, there has been a community garden at the corner of Trower Avenue and Jefferson Street on a plot donated by the Napa Valley Lutheran Church.
Because the church plans to put the land up for sale, this may be the garden’s final year there.
The Lutheran site is operated by a group of volunteers, but Inman said the committee is looking to mimic the American Canyon community garden program, which is administered through that city’s recreation department. The city would handle plot reservations, take payments and organize irrigation, among other things.
“Instead of encouraging community gardens and telling people, ‘Go do it yourselves,’ we’re looking at a model like they have in American Canyon,” she said.
The nitty-gritty details of a pilot community garden are being worked out by the Advisory Council subcommittee and will likely be presented to the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission in the coming months and then to the City Council perhaps in the fall, Inman said.
The goal is to have the pilot garden up and running by spring, which would allow the users of the current community garden to move over without losing a season and allow new growers the chance to plant at the start of the 2014 season.
Inman said a vacant plot adjacent to Garfield Park might make for a good location. The city owns a seven-acre, triangular plot of land to the west of the park and Salvador Creek, just south of Vintage High School.
If the city gives the OK, the community garden would use between two and three acres initially. Inman said the committee is working on a layout of roughly 160 plots. Members are also working on a proposed fee schedule, garden rules, irrigation plan and more.
The cost to rent a plot is yet to be determined. The current community garden charges $50 per year to cover the cost of water, supplies and trash-removal.
Alex Shantz, a member of the subcommittee, said the group is looking into ways to make the plots affordable to low-income residents who are on some kind of government assistance program. He cited statistics regarding the high number of Napans who don’t know where their next meal will come from and the local poverty rate as reasons for increasing access to healthy, locally grown food.
“We really want to make these plots accessible, especially for lower-income individuals” Shantz said.
Inman said there is a potential to partner with schools and use vacant plots and abandoned right-of-ways throughout the city.
“It’s perfectly aligned with the Parks and Recreation master plan, so it seems there’s institutional buy-in,” Shantz said.
Inman said community gardens give people who live in apartments, have no yards or have shady properties the opportunity to grow fresh produce.
“They’re good for neighborhoods, good for peoples’ diets and their well-being. It gives people exercise,” Inman said. “Being a home gardener, I know how important that is. I would hate to not be able to plant my tomato plants.”