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Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Tustin approves creation of community garden in Old Town

By Jamilyn Moreau and Carissa NelsonOctober 11, 2022

The city of Tustin will build its first publicly leased educational community garden led by the nonprofit organization, One Seed, where residents can grow fruits and vegetables and connect with various community members.  

The Tustin City Council voted 4-0 in September, with Mayor Pro Tem Barry Cooper absent, to approve the implementation of the city’s first community garden. The location has been a point of discussion since 2021, with council members finally settling on Old Town Tustin.

According to a city staff report, One Seed will transform a vacant 4,500 square-foot city property on 450 El Camino Real, into a community garden that will host educational workshops for both adults and youth. City residents are more than ready for the community space, with many people expressing interest in volunteering, One Seed Vice President Maria Wingersaid in a phone interview. 

One Seed is a women-led nonprofit based in Tustin created by a group of women who are committed to spreading awareness about the mental and physical health benefits provided by gardening. 

“Finding a private lot was One Seed’s biggest challenge, so partnering with the city ended up working naturally,” Winger said.

Council member Ryan Gallagher voiced his support for approval of the community garden at the meeting. “I know this has been in discussion for some time and at various locations, and I think this is the right spot for it,” Gallagher said. 

The lot is divided by an existing fence and the west side will be transformed into the garden, while the east side will be dedicated to cultivating more Southern California native pollinator friendly plants, such as California milkweed and sagebrush. 

One Seed secretary and landscape designer Susan Anon drafted the garden design with a variety of environmentally-efficient features including a compost system, greenhouse, and pollinator garden. 

One Seed’s main purpose is to benefit the community in addressing food insecurity and aiding local businesses, according to their proposal. 

“The garden could help us grow food and meet the needs of the underserved members of the community,” Winger said. 

Tustin residents will have the ability to grow their own produce to share with volunteers as well as local food banks, and local businesses can gain increased awareness through working and collaborating with the garden, according to a presentation by Winger.

The space would also serve as an outdoor classroom, providing community members with educational workshops as well as gardening lessons.

“The idea behind this is so much more than just having pots of plants and fruits,” Winger said, “It’s really about having a space to grow and learn.”

Referring to a $23,000 grant that the Orange County Board of Supervisors awarded One Seed in July to help the project move forward, Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard commented, “So they have some funding, it seems like they have some legs.” 

In addition to the grant, One Seed partnered with the Tustin Community Foundation for additional funding and raised $1,000. 

Although One Seed will only pay one dollar a month for rent, according to the garden lease, the group will cover all community garden costs and responsibilities. One Seed requested for Tustin to continue watering the lot and also for access to the lot’s existing water meter to monitor water usage. 

The City Council approved One Seed’s proposal for a three-year property lease that will automatically renew for a following three-year term.

Councilmember Letitia Clark had a different outlook on the project’s renewal. 

“This would be a temporary use,” Clark said at the council meeting, “This would not be a long-term permanent agreement, but something temporary, almost like a pilot.”

One Seed is currently working with the city to iron out details and dates around the garden’s construction and opening day, according to Winger. 

“This is not One Seed’s garden, this is the community’s garden,” Winger said, “I want everyone to feel like they are a stakeholder. This is much bigger than us.” 

The city will continue to discuss the implementation of the community garden with One Seed within the next two weeks, according to Winger.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams