Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International and the man who led the charge for Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden, gives an eye-opening and inspiring talk on gardening as a revolutionary act.
“Hidden Villa is a nonprofit educational organization that uses its organic farm, wilderness, and community to teach and provide opportunities to learn about the environment and social justice. Hidden Villa stretches over 1600 acres of open space in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, about 40 miles south of San Francisco. Our mission is to inspire a just and sustainable future through our programs, land and legacy.”
Hidden Villa is also a working farm, complete with a Community Sponsored Agriculture program. A portion of all harvest go to shareholders, while another is donated to local low-income families.
As part of their educational programs, they offer a large assortment of family-oriented classes and events (including How Does Your Garden Grow?, Cheese Please! and my personal favorite, Manure to Meadow to MMMMmmm!) all at very reasonable prices.
Like most non-profits, Hidden Villa is run by a very limited full-time staff on an even more limited budget (especially now), so they rely very heavily on their hundreds of volunteers to keep things running.
I spent a day volunteering as a horticulture worker, starting shrub cuttings and labeling fruit tree scions while others in the group hacked back overgrown blackberries or mulched garden beds. After, we got a tour of the grounds. For me, at least, the rewards of helping to start new plants alone would have been enough, but knowing it was for a good cause made it even better.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider volunteering.
You don’t need a college degree to become a great gardener, but taking a class or two can not only help improve your gardening knowledge and skills, it can also be a great way to meet fellow gardeners in your area. Many park and rec departments offer classes on gardening, composting and other related topics, as do local community colleges and many garden centers.
If you want to dig deeper, there are a variety of programs available through universities, colleges and specialized educational centers. Here are just a few to get you started.
Permaculture Institute, courses offered in various locations