The 18th Street People’s Garden is officially open to the public.
Community members celebrated the grand opening of the garden this past Saturday, June 29, at 936 W 18th street in Merced, with live music, lunch, a raffle, and a “green” ribbon cutting.
The garden was funded and supported through private and local donors, and the so-called People’s Budget: Community Unity for Improvement.
Merced County is said to be the first county in the nation to take part in a “participatory budget” — a process that allowed local residents the opportunity to choose the community projects that would receive available discretionary public funds allotted to a representative district.
With the support of the Merced Local Food Project, District 2 Supervisor Lee Lor, community members, and volunteers, the 18th Street People’s Garden was able to come to life four years after first being imagined.
“We really wanted to create a community gathering space where we can talk about how we can begin to address the food challenges here in the Central Valley — all while creating a place where everyone can come together,” explained Kristen Mengell, the project supervisor.
Mengell said many people face food insecurity in areas of the Central Valley where nutritious food options are not easily available or affordable to the community. The People’s Garden will serve as a direct food banquet for those who cannot afford vegetables, and it’s totally free for them.
“It doesn’t make sense that people here do not have easy access or cannot afford these types of foods when this [Central Valley] is where all the food comes from,” Mengell said.
The garden already produces tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and herbs. Community members are encouraged to utilize the garden as their own. A mailbox-style library for free book sharing stands at the edge of the garden, donated by the Merced County Office of Education.
A trail of hand-painted stones by local artist Jazz Diaz creates a path to the lending library. As an active member of the community, Diaz has been advocating and supporting the push for a community garden in Merced for five years now.
Residents are encouraged to volunteer and engage in the maintenance and upkeep of the garden. A total of 30 to 40 volunteers and donors made the garden a reality, including supplies from Big Creek, Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply, Hunter Farms, Merced Gardens and Nursery, Sierra Material Company, and Merced County.
The roots have been planted, supporters say, and now only with the communities’ help will this garden continue to flourish and grow.
For more information on the garden, email: [email protected], or call the main building at (209) 724-0973.