A Pile of Pallets Becomes a ‘Farm in the City’ as Pasadena Says Thank You for Its First Public Community Garden

Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy\'s

2:49 pm | March 21, 2016


There were lots of surprises at Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy’s Garden Party on Sunday afternoon at the Villa-Parke Community Garden.

One of the biggest was the transformation by Susan Osen, Jill Hotvet, Sheridan Link, and Julie Byrne Rweyemamu of a rather drab community-center auditorium into a “farm in the city,” with wooden pallets decorated with bushels of fresh vegetables, and table centerpieces of tall greenery growing out from red cabbages. Twinkling lights on ficus trees illuminated giant blow-ups of the Conservancy’s newest garden, the James Madison School Garden and Orchard, located just four blocks away.

Another surprise was the appearance of 83-year-old Venice ceramic artist Dora de Larios, whose 1992 iconic piece, “Homage to Quetzalcoatl,” towers 36 feet over the 30 plots of the community garden. Ms. de Larios posed for photos with the star-struck low-income families with young children who hold plots in the garden – many of them participants in the local Head Start program and or the Madison School. The families also posed for photos with the day’s honorees, Fifth District County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and Chief Deputy Kathryn Barger, who made the garden possible through a grant enabling construction and participation in a social-services program known as “Little Green Fingers.”

This innovative program helps families with children under 5 years lead healthier lives by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education to address the growing obesity epidemic in low-income neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County.

A third surprise came from Interim City Manager Steve Mermell, who arrived bearing an award to PCGC from vacationing Mayor Terry Tornek. Mr. Mermell mentioned how much he had enjoyed working with the Conservancy board members on the Villa-Parke Community Garden during the past two years.

The afternoon of local talent began with a lively performance of authentic pre-Columbian Aztec dances from the Pasadena-based group Yankuititl (new fire) and continued with music by the Blair High School Jazz Band. PCGC major donor Paul Tosetti took the podium to give Supervisor Antonovich a founder’s award. Harris Hall, one of the Conservancy’s founders, gave Chief Deputy Barger a founder’s award. PCGC Vice Chair Stephanie Hall served as master of ceremonies, handing out partnership awards to PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald and Patrick Conyers of the Pasadena Educational Foundation for working with PUSD to rejuvenate and enlarge the former Junior League garden at Madison School. Pasadena’s new Director of Public Health, Michael Johnson, received a partnership award, and Mayor Tornek received a leadership award.

Health-focused Altadena caterer LINCOLN served cutting-edge vegetarian cuisine, designed by Chef Christine Moore and Pastry Chef Cecilia Leung. Trader Joe’s donated indoor herb windowboxes to enable the families at both Villa-Parke and Madison, who live in apartments, to grow fresh herbs to enhance their family meals.

“I really loved seeing the garden,” Mr. Antonovich said in accepting his award. “I want to come back and see how it continues to grow. And I’d like to go over and see the garden at Madison too.” Those comments put smiles on the faces of PCGC’s supporters, who are hoping to raise funds to help the City Department of Public Health and PUSD build three additional gardens in the next 12 months.