A Cultivated Community – West County is more agriculturally inclined than meets the eye.

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By Matt Larson

With so much going on in West County and so little space to cover even half of the tremendous efforts put forth my members of our community to make this an even greater place to live, we wanted to look back to last year’s inaugural Urban Garden Contest and Showcase spearheaded by Richmond’s own Mayor Tom Butt.

As an avid gardener himself, the mayor understands firsthand the wide range of benefits that come from gardening. With local horticultural nonprofits like West County DIGS and popular events like the Bring Back the Natives Garden Tour, as well as many Richmond residents proudly cultivating their own home gardens, Mayor Butt was confident they could find enough local interest to support the Urban Garden Contest and Showcase in Richmond. And he was right!

12 amazing gardens ended up participating in the inaugural event during July 4th weekend, 2016. Many visitors who attended were excited to start their own garden, or improve what they’ve started, and were able to ask questions about new crops they were considering. Growing edible crops is not only a replenishing source of healthy food, but a form of recreation as well with some very tasty rewards. The mayor’s office stated that as they grow this event, they’d like to see more novice gardeners, and future first-time gardeners, to get down and dirty and start planting some crops.

First prize went to Lauren and Attila Horvath whose garden featured apples, pears, peaches, figs, blueberries, grapes, carrots, peppers, kaffir limes, tree collards … basically they’re cultivating their own personal farmers’ market. “The gardens were as unique as the various neighborhoods they were in,” said Mayor Butt. “Having several areas represented proved that you can have a great edible garden anywhere in Richmond.”

On the surface level, this event was designed to encourage more local residents to grow home gardens, and to help avid gardeners connect with their neighbors and learn about local resources. The general drive of the event was to promote healthy eating, self-sufficiency, neighborhood beautification, and community building. On a slightly deeper level though, the mayor also wanted to pay homage to Richmond’s edible gardening tradition of growing what were called Victory Gardens during World War II, when gardening was a common part of everyday life.

Winners and runners-up of the event were gifted prizes from event sponsors such as Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, Acapulco Rock & Soil, The Watershed Nursery, and The Urban Farmer Store, in case you needed some direction on where to get some tips and tricks, and supplies, for your own home garden. Urban Tilth, another sponsor of the event, has been cultivating agriculture via school and community gardens in West County since 2005 in pursuance of creating a local food system. They recently celebrated the opening of their North Richmond Farm—a project 4 years in the making that’s now located at the corner of Fred Jackson Way and Brookside Drive—which, according to the mayor’s office, will greatly expand the community’s access to local food crops.

By now some of you may be wondering when registration for the 2nd Annual Urban Garden Contest and Showcase begins … we hate to disappoint you but there’s been no such announcement at this writing. What we can tell you is that they’re excited to do it again, and look forward to collaborating with more nonprofits, schools, and community organizations as the event begins to grow.

Until then, there’s plenty of opportunities to get involved with the local horticultural community, and to become part of it yourself! Refer to the sponsors mentioned above to find all the supplies you need for your new garden. Maybe check out what’s going on with Urban Tilth and their new North Richmond Farm; find them on Facebook or visit www.UrbanTilth.org. The next Bring Back the Natives Garden Tour, which is currently seeking volunteers, will be featuring 30 gardens throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties on May 7th; for more information visit www.bringingbackthenatives.net. And, of course, if you’d like to inquire about Richmond’s next Urban Garden Contest and Showcase, send Mayor Butt an email at mayor@ci.richmond.ca.us

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