by Joanna Metheny
The Ripon Community Garden, located at 1179 Vera Avenue at the intersection of Doak, broke ground in 2014. Founded by Sharon and Mike Butler, the community garden currently provides 72 fully irrigated planter boxes where local Ripon residents and employees can grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs. The garden is also home to numerous fruit trees, grapes, artichokes, and most recently several colonies of pollinator bees.
In addition to providing growing space for Riponites, the garden was also designed with the greater community in mind. Twelve of the on-site boxes are entirely devoted to growing fresh produce for the Ripon Senior Center. Produce for the seniors is picked, washed, and delivered weekly, and to-date, just shy of 1000 lbs. of fruits, veggies, and herbs have been donated.
The community garden has all the bells and whistles complete with running water for hand irrigation or washing produce, gardening tools, shade trees, a bathroom, and even a picturesque pergola, which provides the perfect spot to sit for a spell or enjoy a book.
The garden is also host to the thriving Oak Valley Youth Garden. Only a year old, the youth garden provides a hands-on gardening experience for children and their families through education, stories, crafts, and plenty of time spent in the dirt weeding, planting, and harvesting produce. All the produce grown by the Oak Valley Youth Garden is donated to the Modesto Gospel Mission and the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. In addition to gardening wisdom, this also provides children the opportunity to learn about giving back to the community and caring for those in need. Each week, the club draws an average of 40 participants. For additional information on the youth garden, see our previous article. http://www.myripon.com/ripon-kids-garden-club-changes-name-to-oak-valley-youth-garden/
The garden is truly a labor of love for those involved, but cannot survive without the very essential “community” in its name. While a community garden may mistakenly seem like a piece of cake to run, what with boxes already filled with soil and irrigated, it in fact takes hours each week of manual labor, currently being done by just a small handful of people. Although boxes are primarily self-sufficient and cared for by box holders, non-irrigated planted areas require daily watering and weeding, and the harvesting and washing of donated produce all add up to hours of work each week, done entirely by a very small number of passionate volunteers. The garden’s long term survival could be at risk without more community support.
Currently, the garden has planned an expansion to add an additional 20 garden boxes. Boxes have already been assembled, but not installed, mainly due to a lack of manpower. One of the primary things the garden needs help with is installation of these boxes, and then laying irrigation for them. There is currently a waitlist for planter boxes, and the completion of this expansion would allow more residents a place to socialize and grow some of their own food.
In addition to box installation and irrigation assistance, the Ripon Community Garden is actively seeking both financial support, as well as to fill several volunteer positions. The most urgent needs are for a volunteer coordinator, an event coordinator, a grant writer, and a temporary project manager to oversee the completion of several planned projects. Each role would have a huge impact on the success of the garden, and only require a few hours of work per month. Volunteers do not need to be boxholders. Any interested parties should contact Ripon Community Garden Board President, Sharon Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (209) 969-5353.
For those interested in getting more involved without committing to a specific role, the garden is holding a number of upcoming events. All events are family-friendly and FREE. RSVPs are always welcome, but in most cases not a requirement to attend.
Sweet Sunset in the Garden Party – Fri. July 21, 7 p.m. to 9 ish
Everyone is Ripon is invited to this garden party event to help celebrate the harvest season and hang out with friends and neighbors. Please bring a chair and a dessert to share. Wine, beer, and soft drinks will be provided.
Weed & Feed – Sat. Aug. 5, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Think weeding is boring? Think again! Grab some friends or the kids, and head on over to a few short hours of social garden maintenance in the cool of the morning, followed by some tasty eats made from produce gleaned straight out of the garden.
Preserve Summer – Sat. Aug. 19th, 9 a.m. to noon
This free class, conducted by UCCE Master Preserver Carol Franzia will teach how to properly, and safely can tomatoes. Participants will enjoy instruction in the beauty of the garden and even take home a jar of canned tomatoes. RSVP required for this event.
For more information on the garden or upcoming events, visit the Ripon Community Garden facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/riponcommunitygarden/
About the author: For nearly a decade, Joanna Metheny has been a freelance writer specialized in the coverage of local topics and community interest stories. A Central Valley transplant and Bay Area native, Joanna permanently relocated to Ripon and hasn’t looked back once. She loves the city’s proud agricultural history and small town feel. Joanna enjoys spending her time in the community, tending her garden, and discovering local secrets along Ripon’s backroads.