Community Garden Rises in Stanton to Bolster Health Outcomes and Increase Food Access

Volunteers work at the Stanton Community Garden located in Stanton, California. (photo courtesy Lisa Wagner/Orange County United Way)

Volunteers work at the Stanton Community Garden located in Stanton, California. (photo courtesy Lisa Wagner/Orange County United Way)

A desire for better health outcomes among Orange County’s youth population was one of the main drivers for the development of the Stanton Community Garden.

“We want to increase the number of healthy children in Orange County,” says Orange County United Way volunteer engagement manager Kautrina Morgan. “That’s the big picture.”

The City of Stanton is somewhat of a food desert, according to Morgan. She says the western Orange County city has its share of liquor stores, and that the obesity rate of its residents is high.

The new community garden, a collaboration between the City of Stanton, Orange County United Way, and Community Action Partnership of Orange County, directly addresses these problems by putting land to good use, producing healthy food, and combating obesity through nutrition and food education, she says. These objectives are consistent with Orange County United Way’s action plan, which includes stamping out obesity, improving children’s health, and bolstering education, income and housing.

“These are all very interconnected,” says Lisa Wagner, Orange County United Way senior marketing manager.

On once-vacant land, the garden landscape is dotted by raised beds, some of which are for community use while others are for individuals. Community beds are operated by area families, and the entire garden benefits from the work of numerous volunteers. A central focus of the garden is building community through working together.

“Volunteers love the community garden concept,” says Morgan.

Another emphasis is combining education with volunteerism. In an effort to mix education with volunteer help, Stanton Community Garden was a site for a Global Youth Service Day project. The garden also features a children’s area where kids can get their hands dirty. This children’s space makes books available to children, so they have the option of reading while their parents work in the garden.

Overall, the space totals 20,830 square feet. Since all of Southern California is prone to drought, the garden takes advantage of water-saving irrigation methods such as sub-irrigation systems and ollas (unglazed clay pots for sub-surface watering).

Stanton Community Garden’s central purpose is food production, although flowers may be grown there too. Growers must follow strict guidelines that follow organic practices. Thus pesticides, weed killers, fertilizers and other chemicals are prohibited.

The community garden wouldn’t be possible without support from several corporate sponsors and donors. Eaton Aerospace purchased wood used to build raised beds, Habitat for Humanity lent tools, and Fox Racing provided soil and an artistic mural. Other support came from the Stanton Home Depot, Whole Foods Market, Recology, Golden State Water, Premier Plumbing, and Gothic Landscape.

The first half of the garden is now complete and at capacity. Future goals and objectives, says Morgan, include finishing the second half of the garden, installing more irrigation lines, and making the entire facility accessible to those with handicaps.

Currently Stanton Community Garden is home to 30 gardeners and directly impacts 100 people through increased food access and education.

The garden is managed by Sonora Ortiz, who also serves as newsletter designer and program coordinator of the Orange County Food Access Coalition. Additionally, she is the garden coordinator for the Community Action Partnership of Orange County and assistant market manager at the Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market.

Ultimately, the garden not only produces good food and educates residents about gardening, but fosters a sense of cohesive togetherness. Both Morgan and Wagner expect the garden, open to all city residents, to play an important role in the life of Stanton for many years to come.

“We’re kind of a community,” Morgan says. “We’re helping to make the area safe.”

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