Pictured (above): Kate Christian harvests amaranth at the Community Food Bank garden.
Do you have a patch of land in your backyard that you don’t know what to do with? Attend a gardening workshop and discover the possibilities!
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona has recognized the importance of gardening and has created workshops that are free and open to the public. Garden Program Manager Melissa Mundt spoke with me about the purpose of the classes and why she believes they play a vital role in the food security of our community.
The Community Food Bank (CFB) has been providing relief to southern Arizona since 1976 and in 1997 the Community Gardens of Tucson teamed up with CFB and started a pilot program that provided 5,000 square feet of land for a garden. The department focuses on long-term solutions for hunger in our community. “[We’re interested in] getting people involved in producing their own goods to be bought and distributed locally so that the community as a whole can thrive and prosper economically,” said Mundt.
The Food Bank has established two unique locations in Tucson that host the seasonal program. The Community Food Bank Garden is located at South Country Club and 36th Street and is a small-scale garden with a greenhouse, worms, chickens, and demonstration beds for water harvesting. Las Milpitas Farm is a community farm located in the west bank of the Santa Cruz River. The farm is much larger in scale and provides educational opportunities, capacity building, and a place for area residents to grow their own food. It also serves as a working demonstration site in desert food productions, composting, ecological restoration, and permaculture for the greater Tucson community. Most of the workshops are scheduled during the cooler months of fall when the growing conditions are ideal. It is recommended that you register early in case conditions are unfit for conducting a quality class. And although donations are always graciously accepted, Mundt said that it’s important that the workshops are accessible to all demographics.
The garden staff at the food bank conducts most of the workshops but will occasionally invite a local expert to speak. For example, Don Breckenfeld of Breckenfeld Family Growers — whose farm specializes in growing pesticide free, Certified Naturally Grown produce, including summer and winter vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes, garlic, squash, and beets — recently taught an “All About Soil” class.
The workshops allow people to begin “saving money and having access to produce, learning to be more appreciative of life, supporting farmers, learning about the seasons and the ecosystem of the soil,” said Mundt. She said the Garden Basics classes are important for people from other regions of the country not used to the arid and often dry climate of southern Arizona, as well as classes that focus on water harvesting. Check out the Beekeeping Basics workshop if you’re looking for more excitement. The Green Valley-Sahuarita Community Food Bank also offers classes; check their website for more details. Workshops that are still available are listed below. Go here to register.
Site Design: Friday September 27, 9-11 a.m.
Seasonal Veggie Recipes: Saturday, September 28, 9-11 a.m.
Soil and Compost: Friday, October 4, 9-11 a.m.
Garden Basics Intensive: Saturday, October 5, 9-11 a.m.
All About Soil: Saturday, October 5, 1-3 p.m.
Rainwater Harvesting: Thursday, October 10, 9-11 a.m.
Planting a Healthy Garden: Friday, October 11, 9-11 a.m.
Water Saving Irrigation: Wednesday, October 16, 9-11 a.m.
Wormania: Saturday, October 19, 1-3 p.m.
Seed Saving: Tuesday, October 22, 9-11 a.m.
Herbs and Veggies in Small Spaces: Thursday, October 24, 9-11 a.m.
Backyard Chickens: Saturday, October 26, 1-3 p.m.
Growing Desert Tomatoes: Tuesday, October 29, 9-11 a.m.
Fruit Trees: Thursday, November 7, 9-11 a.m.
Homegrown Grains: Friday, November 8, 9-11 a.m.
Exploring Desert Foods: Saturday, November 9, 1-3 p.m.
Delicious, Nutritious Sprouts: Wednesday, November 13, 9-11 a.m.
Irrigating with Gray Water: Friday, November 15, 9-11 a.m.
Beekeeping Basics: Saturday, November 16, 9-11 a.m.
Kirsten Almquist is an intern with Edible Baja Arizona.