The Almost Eden Garden Project
701 East Meadow Drive, Palo Alto, California
“a place of rest for the community and sustenance for those in need”
Statement of Need/Project Description
Bay Area food pantries struggle to provide nutritious food for the local homeless and low-income population. In particular, fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely donated in edible condition, and higher quality produce is too expensive to purchase. The Almost Eden Garden Project grows premium-quality organic produce for several local organizations that provide meals and services for homeless and low-income families -weekly deliveries are made to Urban Ministries in Palo Alto, Bread Of Life Ministries in East Palo Alto and to the South Palo Alto Food Closet. Almost Eden also welcomes the assistance of low-income individuals in the garden in exchange for bags of fresh produce.
Amidst the busyness, traffic, and everyday stresses of the Bay Area, there exist few local gardens in which to sit, rest, reflect and read. The Almost Eden Garden Project also serves as a sanctuary for anyone in need of a quiet refuge during the day, with benches and chairs set throughout the garden for anyone to enjoy.
The Almost Eden Garden Project strives to grow quality organic produce and flowers biointensively and sustainably. Growing biointensively and sustainably involves, among other things, double digging the garden beds, planning for appropriate irrigation, growing compost cover-crops during the winter, and plant spacing for optimal plant health. Almost Eden focuses on growing crops that are high in nutritional value (collards, kale, Swiss chard, green beans, etc.) and crops that do not require cooking facilities to prepare (tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, etc). Cover crops (vetch, alfalfa and fava beans) are grown on approximately one sixth of the winter beds each year and dug under each spring, and crops are rotated each year to detract garden pests. Various flowers and herbs are planted amidst all the vegetable beds for beauty and to attract beneficial insects and birds to the garden.
Finally, the Almost Eden Garden Project strives to share organic gardening knowledge with others by occasionally offering free classes to the public. Classes are taught in the "garden classroom" - a set of beautiful redwood benches set under the trees at Almost Eden. Class outlines that have been taught are included on this website as pdfs; be sure to check the local papers (or email Pamela, the AE manager) to find out the time/subject of the next class.
The garden (called now the Almost Eden Garden
Project), was started in 1998 by Bob Segbarth and a staff member at Urban
Ministries in Palo Alto. Originally,
homeless and low-income individuals were paid to help at the garden as well as
at two others in the area. When
funding for the UM staff member and for the hiring of workers was cut, Bob
worked hard to keep the garden going as a volunteer. Pamela joined Bob in
managing the garden during the summer of 2003.
There are currently two volunteer staff members working on the Almost Eden Garden Project, Bob Segbarth and Pamela Chesavage, who make sure the necessary tasks are accomplished and volunteers are directed appropriately. Almost Eden, however, would not exist without its regular, committed volunteers – people of all ages who work in the garden each week, assisting with planting, watering, weeding, digging, pruning and various other garden "chores". Almost Eden also greatly depends on the help of weekend volunteer groups who assist with larger-scale clean-up and beautification projects. Volunteers are currently recruited from local churches and at Common Ground Garden Supply in Palo Alto. Low-income families are informed of the produce-for-work exchange opportunity through advertising at the South Palo Alto Food Closet.
The Almost Eden Garden Project is currently funded exclusively by individuals
and small fundraising events organized by its volunteers. Although Almost Eden
is not yet part of a non-profit organization (we are contemplating that
possibility), a separate bank account has been established for the garden's
expenses, and all financial records/receipts are available for anyone to review.
If you are interested in financially supporting the Almost Eden Garden
Project, we would be incredibly grateful J!
Here are some ways to help:
1) Help with our general supply fund! To do so, please make checks out to
"Almost Eden" and send them to: Pamela Chesavage,
3833 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303.
We promise to use your funds carefully and wisely, and again, our
financials are available for anyone to see.
2) Donate gift cards/gift certificates to: Common Ground Garden Supply, Home Depot or Orchard Supply Hardware. Certificates can be sent to the above address.
3) Purchase a chair or a bench for the garden in honor of a loved one!
A donation of $250 will purchase a bench with an engraved plaque; a
donation of $200 will purchase a chair with an engraved plaque.
Benches/chairs will be ordered within a week of your donation, and placed
within the garden within one month. Donations
can be sent to the address listed above, with your phone number and a note
clearly indicating what is to be engraved on the attached plaque.
Click here to see photos of the (ever changing and improving) garden project!
The following is a list of ways you can get involved with the Almost Eden Garden Project - we sure do need more folks helping out :). Please contact Pamela – at 650-504-1811 or at almosteden(at)chesavage.com if you are even remotely interested in volunteering - we'd love to have you!
1) Working in the garden! - There are many labor-intensive garden
"chores" to be done (we definitely need some able-bodied volunteers),
but there are also very, very important garden chores that don't
involve lots of strength (perfect for anyone!). These less-strenuous
activities include, for
example, tree pruning (our trees are pretty small), rose pruning,
"deadheading" flowers, spraying plants with organic bug repellants as
needed and wiping down sitting
areas in the garden.
2) Harvesting - We need people to come to the garden once a week to harvest ripe produce and deliver it to the local organizations we serve.
3) Securing Donations – Many places are willing to give us donations of plants, seeds, equipment, lumber, etc. – we just need to ask for them. This usually involves connecting with a store manager, writing a letter, and asking for specific items. Online companies can also be contacted for donations.
4) Seed Starting – You can do this one from home! All you need is potting soil, water, a sunny spot, seeds and empty cell packs (we can provide these), and the commitment to taking care of a young seedling until it's grown enough to transplant into the garden.
5) Making Wooden Structures/Decorations – Are you good at woodworking? If so, we need benches, chairs, birdhouses and trellises made for the garden!
6) Providing Food For Work Days– This involves providing lunch for weekend work crews of various sizes who volunteer to help in the garden.
7) Volunteer Recruiting – We will always be in need of lots of volunteers, and hope to have lots of people recruiting!
8) Fundraising – We need a small fundraising committee made up of creative people who would be willing to ask people for financial donations and plan fundraising events.
Some Of Our Partners And Beneficiaries
The Central Coast Baptist Association -a wonderful group of people who have allowed us to turn a large part of their property into a garden, and who graciously absorb the cost of the water we use (no pun intended :)).
Common Ground Garden Supply - a fabulous place to get everything organic - seeds, plants and compost. They help us recruit volunteers, supply us with plants that need love (we like to revive them), and have a great library of gardening books we use often.
Bread Of Life Ministries -located in East Palo Alto, this ministry serves hundreds of needy individuals each week by providing fresh, home-cooked meals, clothing and spiritual support.
Urban Ministries -located in Palo Alto, this ministry (among many other things) sponsors several food closets that serve hundreds of low-income and homeless individuals each week. Individuals who visit the Urban Ministries South Palo Alto Food Closet distribution center are offered "pick-your-own" coupons in the summer. These coupons allow individuals to come to Almost Eden, help with a garden chore for 30 minutes, then pick as much produce as they can consume in a week.
Helpful Gardening Information
1) What's in that Palo Alto city compost anyway?
2) Recommended varieties of vegetables and fruits to grow in the Bay Area (compiled from several sources)
3) What to do and plant in the edible garden each month (Santa Clara County, CA) (a work in progress)
4) Class Outline - How to start a basic organic garden (taught at Almost Eden on 6/11/05)
5) Class Outline - How to attract beneficial insects to your garden, and how to deal with pests organically (taught at Almost Eden 7/9/05)
Again, if you're interested in finding out more about The
Almost Eden Garden Project or would like to volunteer with us (we would be so
please contact Pamela – at 650-504-1811 or at almosteden(at)chesavage.com.