Merced welcomed an impressive new community garden — the largest of its kind in the city — during a ceremonial ribbon cutting at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in north Merced on Friday, May 3.
It’s being called the Healthy House Food to FoRx Community Garden, and it’s the result of a partnership between the church and the nonprofit Healthy House – Within A MATCH Coalition.
“This really was a community endeavor,” said Candice Adam-Medefind, executive director of Healthy House. She added that the project was a couple years in the making.
Healthy House received significant grants from the Merced County Department of Public Health and Central California Alliance for Health to establish the garden as well as an Rx Prescription Produce program to provide local produce to Medi-Cal patients and their families.
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran provided land along with many volunteers to help make the garden a reality.
“This is an exciting day for all of the faith communities who have come together to make this happen,” said Pastor Dorothy Lindstrom. “This started as a dream, turned into a vision, and then a reality. Vacant land and unused lawn have become a beautiful garden that will feed people and create healthy people. We are so excited to be a part of this ministry.”
An incredible 60 garden beds have been built in the project. Local gardeners — mostly from Merced’s Southeast Asian community — have planted specialty items for the summer.
As part of the grant, gardeners have agreed to donate 25 percent of their produce to an Rx Prescription Produce program which Healthy House is piloting with the assistance of the Make Someone Happy project, the Family Medical Residency program, Merced Co. Dept. of Public Health, UC CropMobsters, and the Merced County Food Bank.
Make Someone Happy volunteers are expected to help facilitate the health foods for patients in south Merced — an area targeted as a “food desert” where some neighborhoods have limited or no immediate access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and other food items.
Ongoing assistance is provided by Master Gardener Marc Medefind who also serves as liaison between Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran and Healthy House. Each week, Medefind meets with Chai Moua and Mimi Xiong who are the community garden program leads for Healthy House.
Other community help for the garden came following Merced College’s annual plant sale and agriculture educator Bryan Tassey.
State Assemblyman Adam Gray was on hand for the event, and called the garden: “A wonderful accomplishment for the community. He was joined by representatives from State Senator Anna Caballero’s office and Congressman Jim Costa’s office.
Merced County Supervisor Lee Lor also received praise for making district funds available for the project, as well as the City of Merced for helping to ease permitting.