Habitat for Humanity and Soil Born Farms team up to start and maintain organic gardens

Photos courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento

It Takes a Community To Build a Community

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento and Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova are teaming up to maintain organic gardens at area schools and neighborhoods through a new pilot program called Green Spaces Crew.

Habitat for Humanity will sound the call for volunteers, and Soil Born Farms will provide 20 years of expertise in organic gardening training. Local schools and neighborhoods will reap the rewards, which include edible food forests and drought-tolerant California native plant and pollinator gardens that beautify, connect, and feed neighborhoods.

“It takes a community to build a community. Our volunteers are really the lifeblood of our work,” says Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento Chief Operating Officer Shannin Stein.

Three schools with established gardens in the Sacramento City Unified School District have been selected for the pilot year. Many urban school families live in food deserts and don’t have access to healthy food. By partnering with Habitat for Humanity, Soil Born Farms will now have the volunteer crew needed to keep the Growing Together youth education program going strong.

“We were really in need of extra support for school gardens. Now we are able to mutually work together at school sites. We hope the model can be replicated,” says Shannon Hardwicke, youth education manager at Soil Born Farms.

This symbiotic relationship builds on Soil Born Farms’ mission as an urban agriculture and education project to empower people to participate in their local food system. Started 20 years ago, Soil Born Farms has grown to 55 acres on the American River Parkway, where it operates a farm stand, weekly online marketplace, classes, and tours.

“We really are doing everything we can to learn the knowledge and pass it to others. We can’t manage every garden, but we can empower people. We’re really trying to train people how to grow healthy food organically,” Hardwicke says.

Habitat for Humanity engages a pool of 2,000 to 5,000 volunteers from all walks of life and backgrounds, from individuals to corporations. Partnerships with high schools, colleges, AmeriCorps, law enforcement, and others in the community are helping to build more inclusive communities.

“It’s an opportunity for every single one of us to get our hands dirty,” Stein says.

In the future, senior citizens, veterans, people living with disabilities, immigrant families, and folks living on limited incomes who qualify for Habitat’s Home Repair Program will witness their yards transform into edible landscapes.

Keeping neighborhoods intact and thriving is especially critical at a time when the region is dealing with a housing crisis stemming from rapid inflation, gentrification, and displacement. At the center of it all is the idea that food brings people together.

“We can unify around food,” Stein says.

For details about joining the Green Spaces Crew or to register for a volunteer day on April 9 at Pacific Elementary School, visit Habitat’s website at Habitatgreatersac.org or email Brianna Lowrie at Volunteers@habitatgreatersac.org

This article was sponsored by Habitat by Humanity.