These last few months have brought us to truly appreciate the value of our homes and gardens as we shelter in place. For the combined good of our communities, we have a new understanding of our health and our friends near and far.
It is in that spirit that I would like to share the project that I recently completed for the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC). As my real estate business in Sonoma and the “Art of Leisure,” is constantly circling around the home and garden, this was so personally fulfilling to both imagine and complete with the SEC. In many circles they say it takes a village. That was certainly true of this garden project. It was only with the help of leadership, staff and many dedicated volunteers that we were able to gift 300 “Victory Garden starter kits” to the greater Sonoma Valley community. The following are a few highlights of how these hundreds of starter “Victory Gardens” were given in celebration of the SEC’s 30th Anniversary and in honor of Earth Day.
As we like to start a project with a vision of its end in mind, the picture above was seen in the local Sonoma Index Tribune newspaper the day before the gifting event of April 25, 2020. It was appropriately titled, “Sow the seeds of ‘Victory’.” You can see that I have full COVID-19 mask and gloves in place.
This is historic Sonoma City Hall the morning of April 25th, as we begin setting up tables to distribute the starter gardens. Our scheduled start time was 10:00 a.m.
At around 9:00 a.m, the boxes are placed on tables and cars start to line up around the Sonoma Plaza, waiting for the gifting to begin.
That then brings us to the beginning: Our goal was to appropriately celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Sonoma Ecology Center on their birthday of Earth Day 2020.
We started by searching for available plants and seeds. This was found to be quite difficult due to virus-related closures, so we changed to growing the plants ourselves. Here we see Bee-Well Farms, the grower with whom we worked to plant vegetables, fruit, and flowers. We needed 2,100 seedlings for the 300 starter kits. With shelter in place orders have just been given, the available national seed supply was dwindling by the hour. We were so fortunate to work with this wonderful grower who had the varieties of organic seeds that we desired and packaging supplies in stock.
We were then able to locate and purchase 85,000 organic seeds online. Delivery was slightly delayed due to the incredible demand. Once received, we needed to count seeds to prepare 600 custom seed packages for the kits.
A few wonderful volunteers and I measured seeds into the 600 packets. Each envelope contained either 100 carrot seeds, 150 spinach or 175 lettuce seeds. The picture above was taken on my front lawn with full COVID-19 measures followed, except for a moment as we drew our chairs closer for the photo.
On March 30th, the project is announced by the Sonoma Ecology Center to the press and community through social media, print, and our individual networks. In the community, grocery store lines were increasing and some food supplies were becoming scarce. This only made our project the more relevant and needed. Here you see what was in each Victory Garden box. Eventually, the boxes went on to include a 4 inch potted tomato plant and a small bag of Biochar.
Very positive marketing material and messaging was created and distributed by the talented SEC staff. A few parts of the messaging contained simple watercolors that I painted.
On Earth Day, the plants are delivered to the Sonoma Garden Park. Here, we water these 2,100 young, sprouting fruits and vegetables and tend to the new shoots.
This is our first sample box, waiting to be copied 300+ times the following morning.
Putting together the boxes; so many fabulous, dedicated volunteers gathered in the old barn at Sonoma Garden Park.
Success…the boxes wait patiently for sunrise on Saturday, April 25th, when we will collect them from the barn and ever so carefully deliver them to the Sonoma Plaza for distribution.
We are ready, and beginning to offer guidelines to the hundred of cars waiting for a safe, COVID-19 appropriate gifting of the garden boxes.
Soon, traffic control is in full force as we creatively direct traffic. The quantity of cars was so much greater than we had expected.
A gift box is delivered to the trunk of the car while recipients stay safely inside. In this picture, you can see two reporters from the local paper and a Wall Street Journal photographer recording the event.
Law enforcement arrives and traffic management is in full bloom.
Due to our advance planning, amazing volunteers, and the Sonoma Ecology Center organization, this was all quite orderly and successful. Celebrating the “Nonprofit of the Year 2019’s Birthday,” began to unfold and the feeling of gratitude surrounded us.
After a brisk 45 minutes to an hour, we were running out of Victory Gardens. It became necessary to turn away cars. The enthusiasm was completely beyond our imagination as a board.
This is one plant which found a home in the soil of a local resident. As an organization, our goal was to gift all 300 on Saturday. Our mission completed, we were thrilled.
The Sonoma Ecology Center is involved in many areas of the Sonoma Valley community.
Wishing you a lovely garden, and to stay well during this time of shelter-in-place.