More Than Just Roses Blooming at New Little Green Fingers

From L to R: Assemblymember Chris Holden, Dan Knapp, LA Conservation Corps, Alina Bokde, LA Neighborhood Land Trust, Sen Carol Liu, Pasadena Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, First 5 LA Commissioner Duane DennisLittle Green Fingers Community Gardeners plant their first fruits and vegetables at grand opening of Pasadena GardenChildren from the Villa Parke Community Center Head Start program kick-off the program with a song to dedicate the Little Green Fingers GardenLocal Aztec Dancers blessed the new Little Green Fingers garden at the beginning of the programLittle Green Fingers Outreach Coordinator Monica Curiel with one of the younger gardeners

STAFF REPORTS

8:12 pm | April 28, 2014


This past weekend, the Little Green Fingers children’s garden collaborative celebrated the grand opening of its third garden in Los Angeles County at the Villa-Parke Community Center, the first of its kind in Pasadena designed especially for families with young children under the age of five.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and California State Assembly Member Chris Holden were part of the grand opening program. Other featured speakers included First 5 LA Commissioner Duane Dennis, Dan Knapp, Deputy Director of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, and Alina Bokde, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. The event featured free food and arts and crafts activities for children and their families to celebrate the grand opening during Earth Day Weekend. One of the highlights of the program included testimonials from three community gardeners, including a young girl and her grandmother demonstrating the intergenerational benefits of community gardening.

“We welcome the Villa-Parke Community Garden as a valuable asset to Pasadena. This first-of-its-kind-rooftop community garden and the related nutrition program for Pasadena families with young children will allow them to grow healthy fruits and vegetables and embark on a healthier lifestyle. We look forward to watching this model garden grow into a model for all of Pasadena,” Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

“We are so pleased to be able to provide the funding to construct and operate the Little Green Fingers garden in Pasadena,” said Duane Dennis, First 5 LA Commissioner. “Partnering with the Villa-Parke Community Center and the co located Head Start program, along with the additional generous support from the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy will ensure the community gardeners will get the resources and support they need to make this garden thrive. With one in five children in Los Angeles County being either overweight or obese, it is critical to provide young children and their families with the ability to grow their own healthy foods to help combat this problem.”

The innovative Little Green Fingers garden initiative is made possible thanks to a grant from First 5 LA. The initiative aims to help address the obesity epidemic among children in Los Angeles by providing fresh fruits and vegetables, along with gardening and nutrition education. The project is being spearheaded by the non-profit Los Angeles Conservation Corps, the LA Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT) and an extraordinary team of garden, nutrition and health experts. The garden has 30 raised garden beds and planters, including beds and fruit trees located in the outdoor Head Start area, a play and gardening area for young children, and a shade structure, which all were selected by community members during an extensive public design process facilitated by Glen Dake and Miguel Luna from DakeLuna Consultants, the landscape architect and community engagement liaison for the project.

LA Conservation Corps Director Bruce Saito noted that the Little Green Fingers initiative is a win-win for the community and for the Corps. “Our Corpsmembers are proud to have built this garden for the residents of Pasadena. Not only does constructing these gardens provide our corpsmembers with important job training skills, but they also get to see first-hand how their hard work and dedication can make a great impact in the lives of Pasadena’s youngest residents by helping them to eat healthier.”

“The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is excited to work with the community gardeners to help them make this garden their own,” remarked Alina Bokde, Executive Director of the LANLT. “We help bring community members into the garden, develop their leadership skills, and give them the resources they need to make this a thriving community hub.”

The grand opening event kicked off with a blessing of the garden by Danza Yankuititl, a troupe of local Aztec dancers, and a song by the Head Start Preschool Choir. Featured activities at the event included a “rainbow” salad demonstration by Whole Foods Pasadena, art activities and face painting for children, and community resource booths.

In addition to the garden site improvements, the community gardeners will be receiving ongoing classes from a Master Gardener as well as free cooking and nutrition classes made possible with the additional support of the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy.

The Villa-Parke garden is the third garden to be completed by Little Green Fingers. The Koreatown Mariposa-Nabi Garden and the West Athens Victory Garden were the first to be completed. Other gardens that will be opening in 2014 include: the El Cariso Mountain Garden in Sylmar, whose grand opening is May 17; a garden at the Cedar Ridge Apartments, a low-income housing development in Lancaster, which will begin construction in May; and a garden on the grounds of the Historic General Hospital in East Los Angeles, slated to begin construction this fall.

About Little Green Fingers

First 5 LA awarded a five-year grant to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to help address the obesity epidemic in Los Angeles by creating a children’s garden collaborative for young children and their families called Little Green Fingers. The initiative will construct eight community gardens in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles County. The gardens will provide a minimum of 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year and will feature on site amenities and programs targeting families with children ages 0-5. The Little Green Fingers team of experts includes: First 5 LA – providing funding for planning and construction; Los Angeles Conservation Corps ­ program oversight and garden construction; Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust – land acquisition, community organizing and leadership development; Nicole Gatto (epidemiologist and health science researcher at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health overseeing project evaluation ); DakeLuna Consultants – landscape architecture and community organizing; UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program – gardening and nutrition education; and The Better World Group - strategic outreach and communications.

About the LA Conservation Corps

The Los Angeles Conservation Corps is a 501(c)3 private non-profit organization founded in 1986 by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Ambassador Mickey Kantor. Its primary mission is to provide underprivileged young adults and school-aged youth with opportunities for success through job skills training, education and work experience with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community. The LA Corps is a national leader in workforce development and alternative education for inner-city youth and is currently the largest urban conservation corps in the nation with a full-time staff of over 150 employees serving 16,000 young people each year. For more information, please visit www.lacorps.org.

About the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust’s mission is to build healthier, stronger and safer neighborhoods through the creation of urban parks and community gardens in underserved, low-income communities in park-poor areas. Our goal is to improve residents’ health and quality of life by providing access to healthy foods, and safe green spaces to exercise and recreate. We empower residents to transform their neighborhoods and serve as stewards of their spaces. This unique and highly effective business model delivers parks and gardens where they are needed most, eliminating bureaucracy and assuring long term sustainability. For more information, please visit www.lanlt.org

About the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy

The Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy is a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve health in Pasadena’s densely populated, urban “food desert” neighborhoods through community gardens & urban farming. For more information, please visit www.pasadenacgc.org