Hope for the Hopeless: A Community Garden

Empty. Brown. Dry. Dead. The vacant lot on the corner of Center and Gibbs streets in Pomona, California used to be a center for crime and suspicious activity. With community members unsure of whom to trust in the neighborhood, everyone kept their doors and mouths shut. That is, until a a group from 1st Presbyterian Church of Pomona, with support from a non-profit named Pomona Hope, transformed the space into a green, thriving community garden where neighborhood families connect to the earth and each other.

The Center Street Community Garden’s mission is “growing food, people, and hope” – and since its inception in August 2009, the garden began to achieve these goals in tangible ways. Safe green spaces like Center Street Community Garden are hard to find in the urban setting of Pomona, eastern Los Angeles County’s largest city. Many of the crime statistics are double the state and national averages, with issues of gang violence, drug trafficking, and prostitution creating the impression that Pomona is unsafe and unwelcoming.

Center Street Community Garden grows hope for this city. The garden’s 20 individual plots, rented to interested families for the year, have affected real change in the neighborhood. Neighbors bring their whole families, and by getting to know and trust one another a neighborhood watch system was established and has reduced crime in the area by 40%. Children learn from parents and talented volunteers about the earth and nutrition through hands-on gardening. The Alvarado Family used their plot so efficiently that they saved $100 per month on their grocery bills. In addition, by working towards being 100% organic, the Garden demonstrates the value of environmental responsibility.

Some of the garden’s long-term goals include:

  • Selling fresh, organic produce at the local farmer’s market and to local restaurants
  • Developing a totally youth-sustained garden plot
  • Creating a salsa-making youth entrepreneurship program
  • Starting a Community Supported Agriculture group
  • Raising the overall standard of living in Pomona