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February 17, 2013 (El Cajon)--Feb. 23, 2012 is a Day of Celebrating Community Gardens in El Cajon. Events are scheduled throughout the day from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at different gardens and venues. Please see attached flyer.

At 11 a.m. there will be a grand opening celebration at Circle Community Garden, 476 Highland at Farragut Circle. We will celebrate with a ribbon cutting at 10:55, short speeches by dignitaries, introduction of committee and Master Gardeners. Cake then will be served and Master Gardener Joyce Gemmell and others will be there to answer gardening questions.

It is one of several events scheduled throughout the day to observe “A Day of Community Gardens in El Cajon.”

The day begins with a worm composting demonstration at 1457 E. Madison Ave., 9 a.m.; a visit to St. Madeline Sophie’s Center garden at 2119 E. Madison Ave., 10 a.m.; a young gardener workshop at El Cajon Library, 1 p.m.; a tour and discussion of drip irrigation at Magnolia Community Garden, 650 Greenfield Drive, 2 p.m.; and a “Seed Balls and Sunset” visit to a community garden sponsored by the International Rescue Committee and Kaiser Permanente at 203 Travelodge Drive, 3:30 p.m.

In 1979 my husband and I worked with Joyce Gemmell and community members to develop a community garden and park at Magnolia Elementary School on Greenfield Avenue in El Cajon.  That garden, 34 years later, is still growing strong with thirty-six 20’x20’ plots worked by families who live in the area - mostly in multi-family housing units - and still has a waiting list. We developed the garden because there were so many apartments, condos and mobile home parks and those community members had nowhere to garden.

Joyce Gemmell, now one month from age 89, has been a resource to us in developing the Circle Community Garden of El Cajon and is going to be working a garden plot there herself. She is a remarkable woman who has been instrumental in the development and education of community gardening in San Diego for many years and still teaches, most recently at a session at El Cajon Library. She is a great role model for staying and eating healthy through gardening.

Today, recognizing that El Cajon is a very culturally diverse community and wanting to help the local community, First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon applied for a grant, received the monies and set up a Neighbor-to-Neighbor working committee.  One thing that committee did was set up a computer lab for Reality Changers of San Diego to work with high school students in our community in need of help to get  into colleges. That lab will also be used to offer computer classes to the community. The church members have now adopted a strip of highway and go out monthly clearing the area of debris. May 11th Neighbor to Neighbor will hold a Health and Safety Fair on Farragut Circle for members of the El Cajon community.

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church has a large plot 75’x225’ on Farragut Circle, and members of First Presbyterian and St. Alban’s formed a community garden task force. That unused land has now been turned into a community garden where 15 families are signed up. There is room for an additional 45 families to have their own plots.  Using part of the grant money from San Diego Presbytery and a lot of volunteer hours leveling, weeding, scraping, bringing in soil, building plot boxes (high ones for the handicap as well as in ground) the grand opening will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 and planting will begin!

Kaiser Permanente has give $5,000 for the International Rescue Committee to build a community garden on a former Kaiser site at 203 Travelodge Drive. That garden will begin work in March. Contact person is Anne Barron who can be reached at

The City Council of El Cajon has recently adopted a garden ordinance supporting community gardens. Contacts for that are Eric Craig, City of El Cajon assistant planner at 619-441-1782 and Manjeet Ranu, planning manager at 619-441-1771.

Some bullet points:

  • A community garden is any piece of land worked by a group of people in a collection of individual garden plots.
  • Community gardens provide fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment.
  • Community gardens improve users’ health through increased fresh vegetable consumption and providing a venue for exercise.
  • Community gardens allow city residents to grow their own food and help break down social isolation by creating a social community.
  • Community gardens provide a meeting place for different cultural groups.
  • In El Cajon, we are very diverse in cultures.  We have many apartments and condos with no land available for gardening. 
  • Community gardens in El Cajon provide those who live in non-single family housing an opportunity to grow vegetables.
  • Magnolia Community Garden was started by Magnolia Community Council in 1979 and is still a strong community garden with a waiting list.
  • Circle Community Garden is having its grand opening ceremony Feb. 28 and is sponsored by First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon and St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. 
  • IRC-Kaiser Community Garden is sponsored by International Rescue Committee and Kaiser Permanente and is a new community garden which will break ground in March.

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