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Above: Gardens Project Kids In Action

The NCO Gardens Project Launches Fundraiser to Grow Into The Future

Monday, April 2, 2018

Access to fresh, healthy, affordable food is a right that many people take for granted, and yet, for many families it is a luxury. Many do not have reliable access to enough food, partly because they cannot afford it. 1 in 5 people in Lake County and 1 in 6 people in Mendocino County lack access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. Many people in Lake and Mendocino Counties experience hunger at higher rates than the national average because these rural areas have high unemployment rates, lower-wage jobs, and lack transportation to reliable food sources.

The Gardens Project of North Coast Opportunities, Inc., (NCO) seeks to relieve hunger and inadequate nutrition throughout Lake and Mendocino Counties by creating access to community-based food production and local, nutritious food. In the 11 years since its founding in 2007, the NCO Gardens Project has established 48 community and school gardens throughout Lake and Mendocino Counties. Gardeners are currently growing 28,470 pounds (more than 14 tons!) of organic produce to feed over 3,000 people each year on land that was previously vacant, underused, or paved over.

In addition to providing a space to grow food, the community gardens have proven their power to transform grief, daily annoyances, and hardships into beautiful friendships, stronger communities, and healthier people. Three devastating years of fire have left Lake and now Mendocino County residents struggling with current stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. The NCO Gardens Project Manager Ava Ryan believes that gardens can bring a sense of peace, claiming that, “research shows that working in a garden setting can bring healing for these conditions. Community gardens have been shown to promote relief from acute stress. Sometimes simply viewing greenery on a daily basis can help make life’s day to day struggles more manageable.” Community gardens also promote the social connections that are vital to individual and community health. In a 2017 survey of NCO’s community garden members, two-thirds of the gardeners said that working in the garden decreased their stress and anxiety levels, while 53% reported increased wellbeing, and 47% reported stronger social connections.

The NCO Gardens Project relies on government grants and community fundraising to continue to expand and sustain their network of gardens. With a USDA grant ending in August 2018 and future grant funding still in the works, the NCO Gardens Project is once again turning to crowdfunding to raise the money they need to keep building gardens. On April 2nd, 2018 the NCO Gardens Project will launch the “Growing Our Future” crowdfunding campaign to raise $17,000. Donate at The money will be used to develop three new community gardens, bringing the total to 50 gardens which correlates to NCO’s 50th anniversary, occurring this year. Funds will also be used to build new raised beds in existing senior gardens to provide access to garden space for those with limited mobility, fruit trees to expand garden offerings, and a greenhouse so gardeners can grow their own plant starts.

In addition to the online fundraiser, the Gardens Project team will be hosting a series of events and garden workdays during April:

April 6th, Highlands Senior Center in Clearlake, 10 am-4 pm: Help build weed-whacking and mulching pathways while cleaning the garden for spring!

April 13th, Willits Community Garden, 10 am -3 pm: Join a drip irrigation workshop led by expert Chris White of DripWorks from 10 am until 12 pm. A workday to install drip irrigation will immediately follow from 12 pm – 3 pm. Dripline for this workday has been generously donated by DripWorks.

April 14th, N.Oak Veteran’s Garden, 10 am -2 pm: Lend a hand to this developing garden to complete the perimeter fencing, finish installing irrigation, and continue getting the garden ready to be planted.

April 14th, Project Garden Box, 10 am -2 pm: Help distribute soil and garden boxes to fire survivors in Redwood Valley.

April 21st, Middletown Garden Celebration, 10 am-2 pm: Join the Gardens Project to celebrate Earth Day with garden tours and a garden planting ceremony at the Middletown Community Garden during Calpine’s Earth Day Celebration.

April 22nd, Rivino Winery 3 pm-7 pm: Celebrate NCO Gardens Project with dance, drink and play featuring the talented Clay Hawkins! Proceeds will benefit the Gardens Project.

April 28th, Highlands Senior Center Garden celebration, times to be confirmed - Join the Gardens Project for a morning full of garden tours, mini workshops and scavenger hunts!

Donate at For more information about the Gardens Project Lake County contact Ava Ryan at, 707-994-4647x131. For more information about the Gardens Project Mendocino County contact Sarah Marshall at, 707-462-1958. Learn more by visiting the Gardens Project Facebook page at or the website at Learn more about NCO and the 50th Anniversary by visiting or by calling 707-467.3200.

Program(s) Involved: The Gardens Project