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Erin Munning

Gilroy Demonstration Garden grows community

The Gilroy Demonstration Garden, in the heart of downtown Gilroy, is dedicated to environmentally sustainable gardening and education programs for the local community. Judy Hess, Director of the Demonstration Garden, recently spoke with Greenbelt Alliance.

Judy Hess works in the garden in Gilroy with young gardeners.
Greenbelt Alliance: What led you to start a community garden in Gilroy?

Judy Hess: I have wanted to have a garden or farm for years. I saw in the paper that the Arts Alliance wanted to have a garden in Gilroy, and I contacted them. At our meeting, we formed the dream to create a community around healthy, healing food. I love the fact that it is in Downtown Gilroy.

GA: How does the community benefit from the Demonstration Garden?

JH: Everyone in Gilroy can participate! Our garden areas are for everyone, and we don’t rent boxes. Anyone who volunteers gets to take home produce or a vegetable start. We also offer classes on health and gardening to help folks engage. The garden also donates food to the local food bank and sells food at our Saturday morning farm stand and our local farmers market.

GA: What is food security and how does the garden help Santa Clara County?

JH: Food security is the availability of food, especially in areas of need. Gilroy’s food security, statistically, is rated very low. We answer that we’re helping by offering food to volunteers, donating food to the local food bank, and selling affordable organic produce at the farmers market. Plus, our central location provides us the ability to provide fresh food to our low-income neighbors.

GA: What do you have planned for this year?

JH: We plan to continue growing crops and increase our yield by 20% and will continue to host our farmers market in downtown Gilroy. Our dream goal this year is to start a garden in every school and teach youth the love of gardening as well as the health benefits of fresh produce. We have already begun work at Brownell School.

GA: What have you learned about community building?

JH: We have learned so much! Our tagline is building community one seed at a time. At first, I thought everyone would want to come work in the garden. The reality is people are still learning about the garden. It is fun to watch residents make friendships and work together to create a beautiful garden and downtown Gilroy.

Read more about the Gilroy Demonstration Garden.

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