The El Nido garden was first planted in 2015 at our Pacoima FamilySource Center. By growing their own food, harvesting it, and sharing the bounty, El Nido’s clients made a connection to each other, to their families and to their neighborhood. The garden also supplied herbs and vegetables to our culinary skills teaching kitchen. In 2019, during the early days of the pandemic, most programs transitioned online – except for our fair garden. That’s when one of our dedicated Board Members decided to put on her gardening gloves and dig in.
Max Kaplan, Culinary Instructor and Garden Program Director, caught El Nido Board Member Eliza Howard knee deep in weeds, and asked about her family volunteering to restore the vegetable garden during the pandemic.
MAX: Why did you pick the Garden Restoration project?
ELIZA: One of my goals during the pandemic was to find a way to actively engage my family in the life of our city and to find a meaningful and realistic way for all of us to participate in community service. We love to be outside and have a working garden of our own, so when I noticed that the raised beds in Pacoima needed some more hands in the dirt, the opportunity for the whole family to get involved with El Nido just presented itself.
MAX: How has it impacted your family?
ELIZA: Our time in the garden is peaceful, productive and has become part of the fabric of our weekend. The world slows down for those few hours, making our time together feel quite precious. My hope is that as parents, we are cultivating the idea that any one person has the capacity to make an impact and be of service in a variety of ways.
I want my children to know first-hand that it is both their privilege and their responsibility first to care, and then to educate themselves and work towards cultivating an authentic, empathic relationship with the broader community, on both a local and global level.
MAX: What do you see for the future of this restoration?
ELIZA: It’s a humble beginning but I am hopeful that we can ultimately produce and then sustain a generous bounty, and that we can grow enough vegetables to supplement the incredible work of Max Kaplan and both the Culinary-to-Go program and the El Nido Cafe, when it reopens. As the pandemic fades, I will be excited to see if the broader El Nido community embraces the garden more directly and if it could become a model for future neighborhood, cooperative gardens within and beyond El Nido’s reach.
El Nido Garden Update
Our restored garden has been producing a beautiful harvest of vegetables like heirloom tomatoes, peppers & cucumbers, and fresh herbs like oregano, thyme & sweet basil. This healthy and wholesome bounty has been used by our Culinary-To-Go program to create healthy meals for our clients.
Many thanks to the Howard/Thorne family for their work building and filling raised beds, installing drip irrigation and keeping our compost cooking!