National City residents celebrated the grand opening of their new community garden over the weekend in what will be used as an asset to move them forward with learning opportunities and take them back to the fundamentals of how their ancestors thrived.
Calling the garden a “great gift to unveil,” Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis told NBC 7 said it was certainly time for the South Bay city to have such a great resource.
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“We’re very excited to unveil to the community at large…to show that our working-class families deserve state-of-the-art facilities from playground areas to this community garden that has wonderful fruits and vegetables literally being grown by residents,” Sotelo-Solis said.
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As the city’s leader and native to the community, the space is more than merely a garden to Sotelo-Solis – it’s a community spot where residents can truly relish and learn from its natural essence.
“Being able to see where plants, veggies, herbs and fruit actually come from,” she explained on what she’s most looking forward to residents learning. “Knowing that earth, rain, water, sunlight, all of those things that at times we take for granted, are all part of what nourishes our body, mind and soul.”
During the summer of 2020, seedlings were planted and now, various fruit and vegetables have already grown in the garden. Sotelo-Solis said strawberries, cabbage, corn and cucumbers are among the produce growing in the new space.
Sotelo-Solis said as mayor, she’s most looking forward to her constituents learning in-depth where the source of our food comes from and going back to the fundamentals.
“Even in Latino culture, we know there are elders who used herbs and certain roots as medicine,” Sotelo-Solis said. “So, this is going back to that ancestral thinking of, ‘hey, this is meaningful -- all these elements are healing.’”
“As we talk about being self-sustaining, it creates a sense of community,” Sotelo-Solis said. “Coming together to actually having regenerative healing and be able to say this land still produces, from our ancestors to our future generations.”
What began as a conversation between residents and city leaders led to Saturday’s grand opening of the new green space. It all started with initial conversations on what locals wanted to see and among the items with one of the highest priorities was a public garden.
“The community garden got more support because it’s in a food desert,” the mayor explained. “We’ve been working to address and provide more healthy food options.”
The surrounding space is part of a larger mission to provide more resources for National City residents.
The community garden rests in Paradise Creek Educational Park, which also has a tiny library stocked with books for all ages, a new playground and trails. The park is adjacent to Paradise Creek apartments, which are affordable housing units.
Construction for the garden began late 2019, with funding from various sources such as Housing and Urban Development department (HUD), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) resources, funds from a brownfields assessment grant as well as from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Award for Health Equity the city received just last month.
Now, residents can enjoy the public space and partake in gardening lessons hosted by non-profit organizations Olivewood Gardens and Mundo Gardens.
“It’s beautiful to see that we now have an open space that so many of us can be proud of and mold into space to continue to be proud of,” Sotelo-Solis said. “We deserve it. We haven’t had anything like this.”