After years of effort, Encinitas Community Garden begins to sprout

Peppers+are+growing+at+the+new+Encinitas+Community+Garden%2C+pictured+Oct.+15.+After+years+of+work%2C+organizers+celebrated+the+garden%E2%80%99s+grand+opening+Oct.+3.+%28Photo+by+Susan+Whaley%29
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After years of effort, Encinitas Community Garden begins to sprout

Peppers are growing at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. After years of work, organizers celebrated the garden’s grand opening Oct. 3. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

Peppers are growing at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. After years of work, organizers celebrated the garden’s grand opening Oct. 3. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

Peppers are growing at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. After years of work, organizers celebrated the garden’s grand opening Oct. 3. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

Peppers are growing at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. After years of work, organizers celebrated the garden’s grand opening Oct. 3. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

Susan Whaley

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Encinitas resident Liza Blue pushed a wheel barrel full of veggies to a raised garden bed she leases.

She was on her way to pick up her kids that afternoon but stopped by the newly opened Encinitas Community Garden to do some work first.

It’s a learning process, she said, as she was putting in the drip system to water the food her family of four will soon be able to eat.

Blue said she likes the community garden because she has always wanted to grow food but has never tried it because she doesn’t have the space where she and her family live now.

The first-ever community garden in Encinitas opened Oct. 3 after years of planning and struggles with permits.

The garden is available for Encinitas residents only. The cost to lease a 10-foot-by-10-foot raised garden bed is $120 a year. And a 5-foot-by-10-foot plot is $60 a year — both with a $50 startup fee, Agnes Maufit, the garden’s chief financial officer, said by email.

Maufit is one of six members of the community garden’s board of directors.

Another board member, Sandy Shapiro, shared his story about the process it took to get the garden up and running and all the ups and downs.

Shapiro is one of the founding members of the city’s community garden. He, and fellow board member Michael Murphy and board president Gordon Smith, got the process rolling, which came to fruition with the grand opening earlier this month.

The first plots are beginning to sprout at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

The first plots are beginning to sprout at the new Encinitas Community Garden, pictured Oct. 15. (Photo by Susan Whaley)

Shapiro said the idea began nine years ago. There were no community gardens in Encinitas, while Carlsbad and Escondido already have a few, Shapiro said.

The garden needed land to call home, and that has been the struggle for all these years.

According to Shapiro, the former Encinitas City Council denied the request to use an acre of vacant property. He said the council denied the request because they believed the property had a “higher purpose” for a more profitable business to sell to.

However, it was nearly four years ago that the dream was beginning to turn into reality.

Shapiro was looking at vacant property the Ecke family donated to the Encinitas Union School District for a new elementary school. Once the district decided it would not build a school, Shapiro said, he and the other community garden supporters asked the school district board to use the property.

The board said yes but requested organizers obtain the proper permits first, Shapiro said.

Issues with permits arose because there were no community gardens, so there was no permit in existence, hence no way to obtain one.

So the next step included an appeal to the City Council. Shapiro pointed out that this was now an entirely new group of council members than when he previously wanted to start the garden. As the story goes, the city approved, and the fundraising efforts began.

Since the garden board members are leasing the property from the school district, they pay an undisclosed monthly fee. That means the board members continuously have to raise money to keep the place running.

Shapiro said a group of volunteers help operate the garden. The board members help out, as well, such as Doug Long, board vice president, who designed the garden and runs the irrigation system.

In addition, the city’s parks department provides some financial support for the garden, Shapiro said.

The initial costs, such as the irrigation, landscaping and permit fees, were “funded by grants from the County of San Diego, private foundations, individuals and many hardworking volunteers,” Maufit said via email.

“Operational budget for the community garden for the first year is budgeted to break-even at full capacity,” she noted. “The costs to maintain the community garden include rent, outhouse, water, insurance, permits and licenses and supplies.”

So what’s next for the garden? Once organizers get more money, they will build more beds, ultimately totaling 80.

Shapiro said once they catch their breath, one or two more gardens might be in the future, perhaps next to a senior community.

The Encinitas Community Garden is located at 441 Quail Gardens Drive.

For more information about the garden, visit www.encinitascommunitygarden.org. For a complete list of community gardens in San Diego, visit www.mastergardenerssandiego.org.

Susan Whaley is a North County freelance writer

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