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New group to focus on gardening, health

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Local organizations focused on healthy communities are hosting an event in Oak Park on Saturday to educate the public about gardening and fresh food.

The new coalition, Grow Together Sacramento, will create a few small gardens and teach the public how to set up gardens at the event.

Paul Towers, state director of the environmental group Pesticide Watch, said the coalition will build gardens and focus on the question: “How do we get as much healthy food as possible into the hands and bellies of Sacramentans?”

The Pesticide Watch Education Fund is a partner in the coalition, along with City Councilman Jay Schenirer’s office, Sacramento environmental group Ubuntu Green, the Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition and others.

Towers said Saturday’s event will be the first of many centered around building gardens.

Making healthy food more accessible to the public through gardening will be a key part of the coalition’s work, according to Towers and Schenirer.

“We find that Sacramento is a heart of some of the richest agricultural land in the country, if not world,” Towers said.

But many Sacramento residents don’t have access to healthy, fresh and local food, he said.

While Schenirer’s office is playing a role in the coalition, Schenirer said it will not be run by the city.

“We want ownership (of the gardening campaign) to be in the community,” Schenirer said. “Ownership doesn’t necessarily need to be the city or city bureaucracy.”

At Saturday’s event, residents can also talk to Bill Maynard, the city’s community gardening director, about the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. community garden.

There will be a lottery for people interested in plots at that garden, which will open in June at 3668 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Maynard said. Residents who would like to be in the lottery should contact Maynard at the event or by phone at 808-4943. The garden will have 38 plots.

A small number of plots have been reserved for people with disabilities, he said. Those plots will be higher than the other plots, and people won’t have to bend down, he said.

“They can stand up and garden,” Maynard said. Or, they can garden alongside their plot in a wheelchair, he said.

Gardening is a hot topic right now at City Hall. Ramping up the number of community gardens in the city is the subject of a proposed ordinance. It’s unclear when the City Council will consider the proposal – Schenirer said he did not know when the council would examine it.

If you go:

Where:

40 Acres Complex at 3434 Broadway

When:

10 a.m.: Garden training

11 a.m.: Remarks by speakers including Mayor Kevin Johnson and press conference

A second garden training will follow the press conference.

The event is free to the public.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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