Sitting down with Lassen County District 2 Supervisor David Teeter and local food producer Seth Anderson, Rustic Rancher owner, at Wednesday’s Rotary meeting, I got the chance to find out the latest with regards to Susanville’s soon-to-be community garden.
For the past few years, there have been motivations and even attempts to sustain a community garden here in Susanville. Such attempts have been hard fought, but none with the scope and intent of this current undertaking.
The key is for the garden to last 10 years or more. Teeter said, “it is going to take, not only community buying in, but actual involvement by a diverse assortment of locals.”
The community garden task force has laid out their goals, expected outcomes and purpose to the city. The task force is comprised of Seth Anderson, Quincy McCourt, Sam Knaut, David Knaut, David Teeter, and they are also assisted by local resident Gary Felt.
In their outline to the city, the group has worked hard to put together their plans and goals — both long- and short-term.
Their projected goals and outcomes are, “to provide access, opportunity and healthful food to the community, from within its borders, by its neighbors, through the use of local, sustainable agriculture practices and education.”
Their intent and hopes are shaped in their simple phrasing for the community garden, and it states, “Community Garden: Engaging, enriching and nourishing our local community.”
The group is going to design the community garden and run it just like a business in which their summary states it can help our community of people become, “more self-sufficient, independent and interested in being a part of their community again.”
“The short-term goal,” said Teeter, “is to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, but the long-term plan would be to sell them, make money and to help make a business plan.”
Teeter continued, “What I want people to start looking at is how to find a market that is already here and then use it,” speaking specifically about the Farmers Market and the community garden.
Teeter said, “What we are loosing rapidly in our new age is the ability to do things that people have been able to do for 70,000 years, and that includes growing things.
“My hope … is to bring in producers and teach everyone how to do an invoice; how to go out and try to sell the item,” Teeter mentioned. He continued to say, although groups like the Future Business Leaders of America provide community members with business skills, the community at large was still “losing that ability.” Teeter mentioned, with the FBLA only comprising of the top 10-15 percent of students learning those skills, their programs would take a broader approach.
Teeter said, “I’m looking for a change in the way we view our problems, and that’s the reason I like the community garden; they can find a marketplace and then use it.”
The summary to the city council, written by the task force, highlights their plan and says “(when) designed and implemented efficiently and effectively our community garden will not only lead to a more sustainable community built through cooperation, but one that has the potential to develop a more resilient and prosperous food system.”
Although community members have requested various items to be considered when addressing the community garden, such as having the community garden assist with homeless or even having a dog park within its boundaries, Teeter highlighted “(projects such as those) need to concentrate on outside funding streams, not the city or county.”
Seth Anderson, the key player in the environmental design of the garden’s location, has several ideas on how the community garden can sustain for years to come.
The plans he mentioned consist of assuring the garden will utilize only organic farming methods. Anderson has been researching the variables to consider when the garden takes off on Earth Day this year. Things like sun and wind patterns, drainage, deer, quail and many others, will determine how the garden will be set up and how it will operate.
Anderson is especially excited to utilize the house already on the property, for future trainings and classes for the community. Courses and curriculum centered on topics such as horticulture and permaculture will fill the location with students and entrepreneurs throughout the years to learn and grow themselves as gardeners. They are also interested in working with the Lassen Food Council to host cooking and crock-pot events to fill the space certain times of the year.
Anderson started as a grower just three short years ago, and wants to relay his can-do message to those with none to minimal experience or even those who simply feel as though they are inexperienced.
They are looking to obtain an adult education grant, which Anderson will be writing, and to eventually partner with local schools such as Lassen High and Lassen Community College — with the future possibility of a structured curriculum to accompany.
Anderson detailed the breakdown of farming in our local community. He said, with more than 1.4 million acres dedicated to agriculture in Lassen County, only 7,000 acres were dedicated specifically to organic farming of which less than 1 percent were dedicated to produce. About 65,000 acres, he said were mostly hay, alfalfa and other grazing lands for livestock and cattle. Anderson mentioned the major producer within our area, Sierra Cascade, mostly exported their product outside of Lassen County, and his hope was to allow more of what has been grown here to be both purchased and consumed here, too.
Hopeful and also careful to craft a program, which will benefit the community in the long run, both Teeter and Anderson see the benefit of a much-needed aesthetic addition for the particular part of Susanville and the surrounding Susan River areas.
Their focus on sustainable economic generation through the use of ecological education and entrepreneurship breaks open a new path for our local youth, no matter their socioeconomic background.
The vision for the community garden is for it to center around the people of Lassen County for it to tie into the fabric of our local economy and provide an educational resource for future business and personal growth.