Three years ago, Pacific Beach Community Garden, which had existed for nearly 40 years at Roosevelt Avenue and Shasta Street, was sold by its property owners and lost to local gardeners, leaving a void.
Enter Kristen Victor, CEO of Sustainability Matters, and community activist Paula Ferraco, two local environmental enthusiasts promoting PB’s conversion to an eco district. Community gardening is a part of that effort.
“That’s how Paula and I met, we both were gardening in the community garden,” said Victor, who worked a plot there for 20 years.
When the PB community garden was lost, both women sprung into action to find suitable replacement sites, which was tough going.
“Land is at a premium in Pacific Beach,” said Ferraco. “For many residents in multi-family homes and apartments, gardening space is limited or non-existent.”
Recently, a rare new community gardening spot was found. St. Andrew's by the Sea, across from Pacific Beach Library at 1018 Thomas Ave., partnered with nonprofit beautifulPB to replace the church’s front lawn with gardening.
Ferraco and Victor are on a mission to educate the public that urban agriculture is something nearly everyone can do. Victor has turned her home into a model sustainable gardening site by using a grey water system to collect used water from her shower, sink, etc. to water all her landscaping.
Ferraco has become an apostle of community gardening, preaching its merits and lobbying for more space to be devoted to collective urban agriculture. She’s presently lobbying to get some community gardening space included in the De Anza Revitalization Plan, a three-year effort to re-imagine, repurpose and revitalize the 120-acre area within Mission Bay Park.
“They ought to be able to find at least one acre in that for community gardening,” said Ferraco.
Both women said it’s all about public education.
“Neighbors in the community are lending their time, education and hearts to help the community thrive in a healthy and sustainable way,” said Ferraco, noting gardens “are a community gathering place and learning resource demonstrating what a garden and water harvesting site can be. As we look forward, gardening demonstrates a small part of the Pacific Beach EcoDistrict’s principles, which promote health and wellness, as well as regeneration of the environment.
The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan calls for eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, while aiming for all electricity used citywide to be from renewable sources by 2035.
“Public gardening is part of the eco district and greening,” said Victor. “Urban agriculture promotes the public to grow their own food. I grew all my own food in the community garden for years.”
Victor also not only created a grey-water system to irrigate with re-used water, but also installed barrels to harvest rainwater, as well as composting her garbage and recycling the organic waste as fertilizer.
“Urban agriculture is something nearly everyone can do on a small scale,” said Ferraco.
“Use a rake instead of a gas-powered leaf blower,” she counseled. “Choose to collect and reuse rainwater. Separate your garbage and compost. These are all small, discreet changes that cost virtually nothing. They can be done in your home, and will have a huge impact on the sustainability of your neighborhood.”