Rancho Cucamonga Community Gardens Grows

Daily Bulletin – July 24th 2009
Community Gardens of Rancho Cucamonga
by Gino L. Filippi

Remember the days when the air was filled with the scent of citrus blossoms, and summer’s end brought valley growers together for the annual grape harvest? Can you recall the delicious taste of homegrown peaches, figs and tomatoes, or have you ever picked grape clusters and enjoyed their off-the-vine sweetness? Well, let’s gather in the garden!

Today we visit with garden enthusiast, educator and philanthropist Dee Matreyek PhD, to learn more about the Community Gardens of Rancho Cucamonga (CGRC) which Matreyek is advancing with a group of passionate volunteers.

“The gardens effort is collaborative non-profit community project that will include four main components: A community garden in which fruits, vegetables and flowers will be grown for private consumption, public sale, and donation to local food pantries; Acreage for seedless table grapes and wine grapes to help renew and preserve viticulture heritage; A farmer’s market that will sell fresh produce to the public and help generate funds to support the project; An educational component providing programs in nutrition, food production and preservation, organic gardening, and healthy lifestyles, plus a produce and flower exchange opportunity,” said Matreyek.

The CGRC site (15 acres) is located under the Edison power lines on the south side of Foothill Blvd, west of Day Creek Blvd, adjacent to the Foothill Crossing retail center where Sears Grand is located. The property is held by Foothill Crossing LLC, once owned by the Charles Leggio family and home to established Zinfandel grapevines.

“There is a growing national awareness of the value of locally grown fruits and vegetables that can enhance the health and well being of the community’s citizens,” said Matreyek. “With the current economic downturn, and the cascade of problems (poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, diet related health concerns, growing senior citizen needs due to diminishing retirement funds, needs for cheaper, alternative green energy solutions, etc.), there is a tremendous need to develop projects that focus on community sustainability.”

The gardens will provide educational opportunities, not only for children, but for everyone within the community. “We will be collaborating with the local school districts to develop curriculum around the subject of food production, horticulture, nutrition, gardening and healthy lifestyles. With the help of the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners many of these programs will also be offered to the public,” said Matreyek. We plan to develop a volunteer program pairing up high school students who need community service hours with those who may need extra help in their garden plots.

Growing food together has the similar value as breaking bread together. We become acquainted with our neighbors, share information, and feel more connected to our larger community. Matreyek points out that there are many additional benefits to developing and growing a community garden including; helping to feed people and save money, promotes healthier lifestyles and communities, helps people learn about civic participation, provides job training, increases access to healthy foods, preserves cultural heritage, provides children with an outdoor place to learn.

Edward J. Dietl of Rancho Cucamonga is supportive because he appreciates being able to grow, share and purchase fresh vine ripened fruits and vegetables in our local area. “Most purchases of produce from our supermarkets were shipped long before it ripens, to promote longevity and texture for shipping. This leaves our produce hard and tasteless and rife with pesticides,” said Dietl who moved his family from western New York in 1972 to a place called Cucamonga. “I had seen so much of our local history turned into condos, fast food restaurants, and strip malls, that I started the Historical Preservation Association of Rancho Cucamonga in an attempt to save some of our history and heritage. I believe the community garden project fits very well in our efforts to teach our citizens the importance we have in the viticulture and production of citrus in our area. Those who may reside in homes with no lots or in condominiums will have the opportunity to enjoy being a part of a community garden. Let’s get the youth out of the mall and into our rich soil.”

There are many things to consider before digging the first hole, and firms are giving in-kind support with their time, expertise, and materials. “Of course, we also are in need of some financial assistance. We are raising money to pay Edison to review our site plans and we will need help with the irrigation infrastructure. We are currently embarking on a membership drive. We welcome all levels of participation and appreciate your consideration of support with the gardens project,” said Matreyek.

With help from volunteers, the CGRC has established collaborative partnerships with local organizations including: Architerra Landscape Design Rancho Cucamonga, Burrtec, The Restorative Justice Center, Cucamonga Valley Viticultural Conservancy, Foothill Crossing LLC, Laird Construction, Brad Buller Land Matters, Hydro-Scape Products Rancho Cucamonga, Northtown Housing Development Corporation, University of California Cooperative Extension – San Bernardino County Master Gardeners, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, San Bernardino County Department of Agriculture, So California Edison, the City of Rancho Cucamonga, the Cucamonga Valley Water District, Pitassi Architects, Toro Irrigation, Diversified Pacific, San Bernardino County Resource Conservation District, California Table Grape Commission, the Rancho Cucamonga Senior Center, and the Rotary Club of Rancho Cucamonga, local schools districts and churches.

CGRC Membership contributions: $10. Friend of the Garden, $20. Individual, $40. Family, $50. Business or Organization, $100. Founding Member, $500. and above Garden Sponsor

Dee Matreyek can be reached at rcgarden@earthlink.net or call 909-946-6092

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at Ginoffvine@aol.com

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