The City of Murrieta has taken a novel approach to the growing, and at times pervasive, need in the area for locally-grown, organic produce – tucked behind the Alta Murrieta Sports Park is the small but thriving Murrieta Community Garden. The community garden owes its existence completely to donations and volunteers – the garden was planned and planted, nearly in its entirety, by the generous donations of time and money of local landscaping giant Excel Landscape. Over half an acre of grass was removed to make room for 15 different types of row crops. Tomatoes, peas, peppers, and melons are just some of the varieties now available for distribution. There are also 194 fruit trees, bearing both citrus and stone fruit.
Traditionally, fresh produce is nearly impossible to find at food banks because of its perishable nature. Although local grocery stores will donate produce as they rotate their stock, it is difficult to store properly, and often is only days away from spoiling by the time it gets to the people. The Murrieta Community Garden plans for its harvests to fall on the days before each food pantry’s distribution days. This ensures families are getting the freshest produce possible. This care and consideration means a lot to those in our community who need a helping hand. The Murrieta Community Garden makes it possible for people to eat a healthy, varied diet, and also retain some dignity.
When asked what the fresh produce means to those in need, Ann Hartwig of the Murrieta United Methodist Church Food Pantry replied, “People are ecstatic! They are so happy to be eating fresh food. It makes it easier for them to cook healthy meals.”
The farm produces fresh food for Murrieta United Methodist Church Food Pantry and occasionally, St. Martha’s Food Pantry. Any organization willing to volunteer at the farm can receive produce for their charitable organization. Nancy Driggers, director of the Murrieta Community Garden, would like to see food pantries, families and local organizations adopt the farm for a month at a time to help with weeding and harvesting. Volunteers are needed nearly daily to pull weeds, and for the weekday harvests.
“All the community garden does is benefit those in need,” Nancy explains. “We just want to get the produce to the people, but we need help to do it.”
This is a wonderful way for the community to give back. The local food pantries are helping hundreds of families; the need is great. Supplementing the canned and boxed food that fill the food pantries with fresh local produce is beneficial to all involved. The work never ends for the volunteers who are dedicated to helping the most needy in our area.
If you want to help with the Murrieta Community Garden, please call Nancy Driggers at 951-461-6008 or email her at Ndriggers@murrieta.org
St. Martha’s Food Pantry: Call Sonia at 951-677-6347
Murrieta United Methodist Church Food Pantry: Call Ann Hartwig at 951-677-6174
Calvary Murrieta Feeding Ministry: Call 951-677-5667 ext. 1302