Posted on July 5, 2013

Bakersfield: Vacant Lot Transformed into New Community Garden with Help from PG&E

By Tracy Correa

BAKERSFIELD – A corner lot that had become a dumping ground and a neighborhood eyesore has been transformed into an inviting and colorful community garden – and it took a community to create it.

The Seeds of Inspiration garden at Eye and 4th streets was dedicated Tuesday (July 2) in front of a crowd that included city leaders, volunteers and financial supporters – including PG&E — who helped make it happen. PG&E helped fund the garden as part of its $10,000 grant to Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.

The shell of an old Volkswagen Beetle is a focal point in a new community garden near downtown Bakersfield. PG&E was one of several sponsors that helped fund the project. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)

The morning dedication and ribbon cutting took place on a blazing hot, sunny day that was no doubt conducive to the growing corn, squash and other vegetables in the garden.

“Growing is in my blood,” said Amber Beeson, executive director of The Giving Tree Project Benefit Corp.  Beeson designed and will manage the garden.

Beeson, a fourth-generation farmer, said growing things is what she does. However, she said it is people that matter most and that will benefit from the neighborhood garden.

“I had this vision of this community garden,” she said before pausing for tears. “I’m so humbled by the amount of people who came together to create this. I’m sorry, I’m a big softie.”

Project came together quickly

Everyone involved agreed the garden was created quickly.

Jessica Felix, with Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, said the groundbreaking for the garden was in April 2012. “Two hundred volunteers were involved,” she said. “And I hear our corn – planted in May — is doing really well.”

PG&E is one of several sponsors of a new community garden in downtown Bakersfield. Corn, squash and other vegetables are being grown and cared for by neighborhood residents.

The City of Bakersfield donated the land that was once a dumping site and sometimes prone to criminal activity.  Sponsors, including PG&E, IKEA, the Bakersfield Californian Foundation, Home Depot and others provided financial assistance or supplies to help complete the garden. PG&E and other donors are acknowledged with signs located just outside the garden’s fence and in front of the already-tall corn stalks.

The colorful garden features the shell of a partially-buried Volkswagen Beetle with flowers growing out of nearly every opening. The old car frame was donated and is one of several recycled items in the garden that cost nearly $20,000 to pull together.

Although details are still being worked out, the idea is for neighborhood residents to have plots and assume responsibility for garden caretaking. Additionally, yoga classes and community meetings and events could be held at the site.

Positive effect on neighborhood

Just before the ribbon cutting, Mayor Harvey Hall and City Councilmember Willie Rivera talked about the positive impact the garden will have on the neighborhood.

Beeson also presented Hall with an old key that was found in the soil of the garden, saying that it was a bit of a turnaround since city leaders were usually the ones handing out keys to the city. “This is the key to the Seeds of Inspiration garden,” she told Hall, calling him one of the garden’s biggest supporters.

A ribbon is cut dedicating the Seeds of Inspiration community garden in Bakersfield. PG&E’s Kristen Doud (black & white dress), Mayor Harvey Hall (center in tie), City Council Member Willie Rivera and Amber Beeson (wearing hat) of the Giving Tree Project help cut the ribbon.

Hall thanked sponsors who stepped in to help when lack of funding jeopardized the project’s completion.

“Today is the culmination of a wonderful community project,” said Hall.

Local television station, KGET covered the story.

Beeson said The Giving Tree Project will open two community gardens this year.

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