Local green thumbs begin community garden conversation

If you think growing a garden at 8,000 feet elevation is impossible, think again.

If you think you need to start seedlings indoors in April and plant them outside in late June in Mammoth and fence off the yard from deer and bears and it’s all just too much work so you might as well go to Vons, think again.

If you think you need a green thumb to grow your own produce in Mammoth, Crowley Lake, Walker, or Paradise, think again.

There is an army of local Mono and Inyo county residents to prove otherwise and they met Monday, March 18, to discuss the current gardening culture and how they can work together.

Ilene Mandelbaum, the Lee Vining-based coordinator for the event, said that it was the first step toward a future where local gardens are integrated into communities in the same way, say, a park or community center might be.

“It was really the first time many of the people had met and there was a lot of, ‘oh, you have that, well we have this, and maybe we could coordinate more,’” she said.

“It was really a beginning.”

She said people from both Mono and Inyo counties showed up at the Mammoth location Monday, along with representatives from the Town of Mammoth Lakes and both county governments.

A representative from the Bishop Paiute tribe showed up, as did representatives from Lone Pine and Walker and Benton, someone from the UC’s Master Gardener’s program, and the UC’s Cooperative Extension Service, among many more.

The meeting was a first step toward sharing resources and potentially creating policy down the road that would support community gardens in each community, Mandelbaum said.

County and town government representatives seemed eager to help.

“How can we simplify the process to make these gardens viable?” asked Brent Calloway, a planner with the county.

“I was able to get a 50 percent discount for the Bridgeport garden from Home Depot—maybe others can, too,” said Tony Dublino, Mono County’s solid waste director. Dublino suggested doing community-wide composting, as well.

John Connolly, who works for the Town of Mammoth Lakes as a recreation specialist, started the Crowley Lake community garden several years ago and fought county bureaucracy much of the way.

Today, many of the people in county government whom he felt slowed the process down are gone.

Connolly said he has strong hopes for both the future of the Crowley garden and other community gardens as well.

Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action representatives attended the meeting and noted the agency would be interested in buying excess produce from the gardens to give to those in need in both counties.
The group agreed to keep the conversation going at future meetings.

For more information or to participate, call Ilene Mandelbaum at 760-647-6644 or Hannah at the UC Master Gardeners program at 760-872-2098.