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Community garden
Growing strong in Escalon

An idea that took root several months ago, the Community Garden in Escalon is growing strong.

Planter boxes are available for rent, with a variety of vegetables and flowers currently flourishing. The garden is situated in the 2100 block of Jackson Avenue in Escalon, on land donated by the adjacent Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The garden was brought to fruition through the efforts of the grassroots organization, Escalon Strong, a service based, community focused group of volunteers working to better the community. Those who want to take part in the garden project can sign up for the 12-by-4 individual garden boxes at a cost of $50 per year.

The garden features a dozen boxes right now, with plans to add more at the roughly quarter-acre site in the near future.

Escalon Strong President Andy Hagan looks at the notice posted in the planter box of the Escalon Farmington Community Garden Club, which was designed with a mix of pollinating plants to benefit all the other boxes on site.
Escalon Strong President Andy Hagan said there are some general rules when it comes to the garden.

“Just basic guidelines as far as taking care of and managing your own space,” he said of keeping the gardens well-tended.

Ten boxes are rented and two are open; the infrastructure has also been put into place so that the garden can eventually support 36 planter boxes.

Some families have rented out boxes, some are rented by individuals, and a trio of Escalon High School FFA students are working on projects for school through their garden plots.

All the planter boxes were built by the Escalon FFA and students who worked on each box were able to put their name on it, along with the FFA symbol.

“We’re planning on the next couple of boxes to be a little bit higher up for some of the senior citizens that can’t bend down as easily so we’re going to try and get a few of those raised beds in,” said Hagan.

He added that one of the best parts of the garden effort so far is that they have been able to donate some fresh produce to the local food distribution programs that serve Escalon, helping to add another dimension for those that are in need of food.

Some of the planter boxes at the Escalon Community Garden are filled with produce, others have a wide variety of flowers that are flourishing.

In addition to the Escalon Strong garden site, Hagan said there are a couple of smaller initiatives, including a school garden on the Dent Elementary School campus in town, as well as a small site at the Escalon Library. While not formally affiliated, Hagan said all three are helping provide some food items for the community as well as life lessons for the youngsters getting involved in the growing of food and caretaking of the garden sites.

“That’s the beauty of these,” Hagan said of the 12 planter boxes at the Escalon Community Garden location. “People can donate, they can use it for their own personal needs; you figure $50 a year is pretty inexpensive when you’re talking about going to the grocery store (for produce) and paying who knows how much.”

Water and fertilizer – natural compost fertilizer – are also available and provided on site, with piping, drip lines and sprinkler heads included in each planter box.

Hagan noted that the community garden here is modeled off a similar – though larger – one in Ripon, where they have about 75 garden spaces for residents.

“The Seventh day Adventist Church donated the space for us to use and everything here is either a donation or funded through local businesses,” explained Hagan. “When businesses see that you’re really doing something, they want to help.”

The garden had its official ribbon cutting and grand opening last October and Hagan said they are pleased with the interest in it and are eager to add even more planter boxes soon.

Escalon Strong Treasurer Aldah Johnson was one of the driving forces in getting the effort started and she also pointed to cooperation from the Escalon-Farmington Community Garden Club, which rented a planter box to create a pollinator garden.

“This box planted and maintained by the Escalon Farmington Community Garden Club and is a mixture of pollinating plants to benefit all gardens here,” the sign states.

The club box, the sign also notes, is filled with plants donated by Frantz Nursery in Hickman and Morris Nursery in Riverbank.

“It’s really kind of a collective overlap of community members coming out and working together,” Hagan summarized. “That’s kind of what we’re trying to do and that’s what Escalon Strong is all about; a collective effort, grassroots from the community and trying to get the community understanding that we’re stronger together as a collective.”