San Jose’s Mesa Verde

If you’ve been looking for a model non-profit organization working toward food justice to become a part of or to replicate in your own communities, let La Mesa Verde be that example. Covered in today’s New York Times as well as in last week’s Mercury News, La Mesa Verde is a locally grown effort that seeks to unite volunteer master gardeners with low-income families in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of San Jose. The group provides bilingual classes as well as the seeds, soil, two raised beds, and a drip irrigation system to the participating families so they can begin to cultivate produce in their own front yards.The idea is to provide these families with the necessary knowledge so they can pass it on within the community. Raul Lozano is the man responsible for bringing this vision into fruition after watching his own family’s experience with both poverty and agriculture. Pushing the corner stores to supply produce to poor communities is one way, providing communities with the start up knowledge and capital to produce their own food is another. Joe Rodriguez of Mercury News reports that Lozano has hopes that in time, surplus produce can be donated to local food banks-another stitch in strengthening the fabric of community.

Funding comes from larger, local charitable organizations committed to health and community empowerment. Though the model is highly localized it is also exportable and similar efforts exist throughout the Bay Area. The Mission’s Amyitis Gardens, for example, will farm residents’ yards, selling the produce to local restaurants. In exchange, the participating residents receive a discount at those restaurants, becoming both producers and consumers. Or there is West Oakland’s People’s Grocery, which helps educate and organize for urban farming and access to healthy foods. If you’re interested in learning more, head over to UC Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Building this Saturday at 10:30 for their annual fundraising brunch, no charge.

And if you’re not in the Mission or West Oakland but still want to see ideas like these put to work, come to Slow Food San Francisco’s Volunteer Happy Hour this Wednesday night at 6pm at Project One (251 Rhode Island St.) to get the ball rolling.

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