Sierra Harvest’s “Sierra Gardens” program helps families to build backyard gardens, providing classes, mentoring, and supplies for two years. Leo Chapman, aka “Farmer Leo”, is the program coordinator.
Leo was developing larger garden infrastructures and working on farm sites for the Living Lands Agrarian Network before Living Lands and Sierra Harvest merged and started the Sierra Gardens program. Working with new gardeners has opened up a whole new world for him: “What I didn’t expect was the enthusiasm new gardeners have. It’s been great to see how successful they can be when we provide them with the infrastructure, the plants at the appropriate times and the mentor ship.”
Deb Rossovich is one of those successful Sierra Gardeners. She grew up on a farm in South County, and had always wanted to have her own garden as an adult. She was trying to put one in, but as a single parent to a 5th grader and a high school student, it wasn’t easy. When she heard about Sierra Gardens from her son’s school, she jumped on the opportunity, and has been delighted with the results. “The Sierra Gardens scholarship helped a LOT – I lost my job and money is tight. Having our own garden has greatly cut back on the money I spend on vegetables.”
Deb already knew what she wanted to grow, so when Farmer Leo and his team of volunteers arrived, it took them less than eight hours to dig up the ground, put up a fence, amend the soil, put a watering system in and plant. She also got some surprises: “Leo brought some plants that I had never tried, like kale and cabbage.”
Having a backyard garden has not only saved Deb money, it’s saved her time. “I don’t have to go to the store. When I make chicken soup, I just throw some vegetables and noodles into the crock pot when I get home and we have a delicious soup.” She has also enjoyed sharing the garden with her children: “It’s a great teaching experience for your kids to find out where their food comes from.”
Deb’s story – one of 18 Sierra Gardens success stories – brings Leo a deep sense of satisfaction. “It’s great to see how building the soil and building skills creates self-reliance.”
The Sierra Gardens program has provided mentorship, starts and seeds for 18 garden sites, with capacity for 25. If you are interested in having a Sierra Garden in your own backyard, visit the Sierra Gardens page on our website to download an application or call (530) 265-2343.