Features

Growing Hearts builds community garden at Vista Park Hill

Staff and clients raise organic crops for their own use.
Robb Rodriquez. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Robb Rodriquez. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Community Garden. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Community Garden. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Future worm garden. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut
Future worm garden. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut
Area that was cleaned at the March 21 Hollister Litter Project's clean-up event. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Area that was cleaned at the March 21 Hollister Litter Project's clean-up event. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Weather board used by Growing Hearts' Adam Bell for his weekly forecast. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Weather board used by Growing Hearts' Adam Bell for his weekly forecast. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.

Onions, snap peas and tomatoes are just some of the crops growing among wildflowers left in place to attract pollinators at Growing Hearts Garden Center’s community garden at Vista Park Hill Park in Hollister. Inspired by Mason Churchill, a young man with Fragile X syndrome, Hollister-based Growing Hearts was founded in 2018 to create a space for adults with special needs to work in a supportive environment. 

The organization plans to expand operations to include chickens as egg producers and a worm farm. There is no timeline on these additions but Growing Hearts Executive Director Robb Rodriguez said they will be a great benefit to the garden. 

Rodriguez showed BenitoLink around the project and said of the community garden, “It is a teaching space and open to the community.” He said the garden’s staff and clients are very involved in the process. 

Growing Hearts founding member Chris Evans said, “This is where me and Mason started working in 2018 and it is nice to see it expanding. You can sit around and wait for others to do it or you can just do it.”

Growing succulents along with fruits and vegetables, in addition to expanding the landscape, he hopes to add art that incorporates tiles and rocks that were donated by Quarzo Tile & Stone and Tri-County Landscape.

While they can sell succulents at the farmers market, Growing Hearts is not yet certified to sell fruits or vegetables. 

“It would be good to run community classes and teach about all this stuff,” Rodriquez said of their garden and he hopes they can be certified to sell soon.

The patch they are growing on is about the size of a small yard. It’s located on the west side of the park just past the entrance. The Growing Hearts garden will be expanding eastward to an old city lot with a building slated for demolition. It’s unclear when that will be, said Rodriquez, as the building contains asbestos, making demolition expensive.

Rodriguez hopes to also use a large lot just outside the park that was cleaned up on March 20 by the Hollister Litter Project and has had a homeless population on and off over the last several years. 

He hopes to involve homeless residents in growing produce and have them benefit from that produce.  

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.