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TOME—Valencia Community Gardens, a non-profit based in Tomé, received an unexpected donation of hundreds of bags of organic garden soil, starter soil, planter soil and seed starting kits from the Lowe’s home improvement store in Los Lunas.VCG member Joyce Johns said the donation came “out of the blue.”“Someone from Lowe’s reached out and we had absolutely no idea what was going to show up,” Johns said. “We thought maybe a dozen or so bags of soil, a few leftover seed starting kits. It was eight or nine pallets.”
In an email, Kimberly Bowers, the specialty assistant store manager in charge of the community outreach program for the Los Lunas Lowe’s, writes she was made aware of the community garden.“We have an overabundance of soils from our previous year and we have even more coming to get ready for our spring season, and I was wondering if by chance your organization would be interested in taking some of it off our hands?,” Bowers wrote to a VCG member.The donation arrived at the perfect time, as the community gardeners are preparing soil and planting early crops for the season.The Lowe’s donation will be shared with other community gardens in Valencia County. The community garden in El Cerro, part of the Eastern Valencia Urban Garden program, directed by Lindsey Diaz, Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District conservation program manager, will be offering raised garden beds to community families this summer.Johns said many of the VCG members are getting older, so they’re using the sharing of the donations as a way to recruit new members and cultivate interest among other gardeners.The gardeners will also be offering free supplies to individuals interested in participating in the garden community or those who are interested in starting their own community garden.“We’ve always wanted to help others develop community gardens, but they are kind of like schools — someone starts a program, but then they are transferred or retire and it was their idea and they got the funding, and then it dies,” Johns said. “Our garden, as old as it is, is probably extremely unusual.”
The seed of the garden was planted in 2009 during a meeting of local Democrats brainstorming ideas for projects for then President Barrack Obama’s Day of Service initiative.“We were sitting around on the floor, on pillows, and Rosemary Kaul stood up with the idea of a community garden. I stepped on some Democrats to get over to her,” Johns said with a laugh.Kaul’s idea for the community garden was to make it a true community building project, Johns said.“She had been in other community gardens where individuals and families had their own plots, but she said she never met anyone that way. Everyone came in when they had time, worked on their own plot and left,” she said. “Here, everybody works together and reaps the benefits. It really is about growing communities.”Valencia Community Gardens provides education and hands-on learning for growing food in the community.VCG plots provide tilled space, water, compost and help for anyone interested in learning to grow their own food without pesticides/chemical fertilizers. Individuals become community as they grow food together Johns said.The community gardeners provide educational workshops on composting, amending soil, ways of conserving water, companion planting, managing pests organically, making ollas — clay pots that can be buried next to plants and filled with water that will seep directly to roots, canning the harvest and much more.The gardeners can be found “toiling” away every Wednesday and Saturday morning throughout the year.Stop by and join the fun at the garden on Silva Road off of N.M. 47 in Tomé, just north of the Tomé Art Gallery. Look for the sign on the gate and the Little Free Library next to the road.
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