Community Garden promotes healthy living

Community Garden promotes healthy livingBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest Community Garden will open next weekend after months of grueling work by members of Holistic Divine Innovations and dozens of community volunteers. The grand opening and fall planting day will be September 19, 9 a.m.-noon, and is open to the community at 231 Haloid Ave.

“I’m glad people are excited about the garden, but we’re actually hoping not to have too big a turnout,” said organizer Tyrone Ledford, who said that garden will limit it’s capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We want to make it an ‘in-and-out’ event and hope people will try and stagger their visits.”

Organizers have more than 100 ready-to-plant seedlings for members of the community to help place in a greenhouse and various colorfully-painted garden beds, along with some music and individually-packaged light refreshments.

The garden will be a place where members of the community can get access to fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, but also learn about gardening, health, wellness and holistic living.

Ledford is a professor of child development at Cerro Coso Community College and is president of Holistic Divine Innovations – a non-profit organization that promotes healthy, innovative and self-sustaining practices.

The father of four came to Ridgecrest with his wife after teaching at Irvine Valley College.

“We were looking to get out of that area so I started applying for other positions,” said Ledford. “I remember driving out for my first interview and I just felt the energy when I got here. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Ledford set up HDI’s first community garden in Compton, along with HDI co-founders Timothy Martin and Luther Keith III. Martin is a vegan chef and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and Keith is a certified Master Gardener.

At the Compton site, HDI linked at-risk youth to gardening programs where they learned the importance of healthy living and self-reliance.

“Really it serves as an educational platform,” said Ledford. “We saw how much of an impact it had so I’m hoping we can do something similar in this community.”

“Once we get the garden itself established, we want to help others learn how to plant their own gardens and be active in their own healthy lifestyles,” said Ledford. “I’ve been in contact with some local youth programs and they want to start bringing kids in to work on gardening and learning life skills and social skills. We really just want to be a place that helps build up and serve the community.”

Community ownership and volunteers will be crucial to the garden’s success, said Ledford. “There’s always going to be maintenance and we’ll always be accepting donations and materials.”

“I’ve seen so much community engagement,” said Ledford. “So many people have showed up to help make this happen – and the more the community gets involved, the more they’ll have that sense of ownership.”

“It also provides something for kids to do. They need something, especially right now. And it’s outdoors with space for social distancing.

“We love seeing young people come and take pictures of themselves picking up fresh produce to post on Instagram.”

Local businesses and organizations can sponsor garden beds which would provide free produce to the community. Others can rent and maintain garden beds and grow their own products to sell at the farmers’ market.

For Saturday’s grand opening, the garden will have kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, pea, radish, beet, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, okra, lemongrass and other seedlings for the community to come and help plant.

Due to the heat and air quality, Ledford has postponed some of the calls for volunteers. But anybody interested in volunteering or who just wants to learn more can join the @RidgecrestCommunityGarden group on Facebook. For more about HDI, visit holisticdivineinnovations.org.

Pictured: Colorfully painted garden beds sprout up as the Ridgecrest Community Garden takes shape at 231 Haloid Ave. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2020-09-11