Spiral Gardens is my local community garden. It is situated at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets in Southwest Berkeley, on two blocks of public land at the end of a long-vacant former railroad right of way. It was founded in 1993 and is now officially incorporated as the Spiral Gardens Community Food Security Project, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
There are five main projects. I have taken their description straight from the website.
* The Community Farm, behind the northwest corner of Oregon and Sacramento Streets, is our primary location for direct food production. At least half of the harvest goes to the low-income seniors in the adjacent housing complex, the rest is distributed among the volunteers who grow it.
* The Produce Stand provides fresh, mostly organic produce, from local regional family farms to the neighborhood at cost. It is located on the busy southwest corner Sacramento and Oregon Streets in front of the Nursery.
*The Community Harvest Project assists private homeowners and the community by harvesting excess fruit from backyard and community trees and distributing what would otherwise go to waste to people in need.
* The Nursery, located on the southwest corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets, makes useful plants available at affordable prices. The nursery specializes in edible plants, culinary and medicinal herbs, California native and other habitat supporting plants (particularly butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds). All proceeds go to support the project.
The core volunteers are spread thin. Please check the website to see when people are invited to help out and then just drop in. People are very friendly, always willing to teach and chat. I don’t have my own garden for the first time in my life. Spiral Gardens gives me a lot more than I give back when I volunteer. And I love the fact that half the produce supports a low income seniors complex nearby. Giving back to the land, giving back to the community – what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com.