Community gardening unifies people of different backgrounds, cultures

Lush green plants and a handful of gardeners are the backdrop for Arlanza community garden located off Cypress Street in Riverside.

The garden, which is owned by the City of Riverside, is run like a community business where volunteer board members make decisions and discuss future goals together.

Scott Andrews, one of the garden’s seven board members, has served in the garden since its opening nearly 10 years ago.

From day one, he has helped deal with a variety of challenges the garden has faced.

“There’s a lot of rules to abide by because this is city property,” Andrews said. “It’s not like we can do things as if we owned this ourselves.”

One of the issues Arlanza garden has faced in the past is its discreet location.

“I feel like a lot of people drive by and don’t really know what this is,” said Zionjawa Sines, a garden coordinator.

Other challenges include difficulty establishing water access and a lack of resources.

Goals such as building a storage shed can be a tedious process. Any structure over 18 inches tall requires city approval, which sometimes can take months for approval.

Despite resources being a struggle, donations and support have continued to come from unexpected places.

Andrews and Sines said the garden is always in need of more volunteers.

“We always need more people weeding,” Sines said. “We could always use more opinions and more resources.”

Sines also encourages more people to come by the garden and see how they can benefit from getting involved.

“Through gardening, we build relationships with students, community members and people in need,” said Dr. Bonjun Koo, professor of environmental science at California Baptist University.

Koo also said community gardens increase a sense of community ownership and stewardship.

The garden allows for people who do not have their own plots of land to have a place to grow and exchange crops, as well as become more educated on growing produce organically.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned so much about plants,” Sines said. “When you go to the grocery store, you don’t realize a lot of that has hormones and things in it.”

On Oct. 28, the Arlanza board members attended a city council meeting where the board gave a presentation that illustrated the garden’s progress throughout the year.

Organization has become a priority and the garden’s revitalization has gone so well that there is currently a waiting list for garden plots.

To inquire about volunteer opportunities or be added to the waitlist, send an email to growarlanza@gmail.com.

About Courtney Coleman

Senior Writer

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