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Local women’s group gets growing for health

Sutter Auburn Faith donates space for community garden
By: Elisa Herrera Special to Home & Garden
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Some Auburn-area women now have a community garden, thanks to advocacy and partnerships. On Saturday, members of the group, sponsored by the Latino Leadership Council, began the work of clearing the land, digging and planting. The North Auburn women received an early Mother’s Day present when more than 30 people showed up not only to plant the vegetables, but to seed collaboration and friendship among neighbors, fellow churchgoers and other Placer County residents. The women’s group has been meeting twice a week for exercise and nutritional education. “Almost a year ago, the LLC received a request from our Auburn promotora (community health educator) Silvia Lopez to start a Zumba class,” Promotora Manager Maria Cordova said. “And so we worked with our partners to host them. The women know that good health isn’t dependent just on exercise, but on good nutritional foods too, and so they asked if we could help them find a space for gardening.” When Cordova approached Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital CEO Mitch Hanna about the situation — believing Hanna might be able to work with his Rotary Club to find a solution — he offered unused space behind the hospital for the garden. To Hanna, it made sense for everyone involved. “We are pleased to be able to assist our neighbors by affording them access to our land and water to develop a community garden,” he said. “It is our hope that this partnership will help foster healthier lifestyles and diets that include more vegetables.” For a population that tends to have high rates of diabetes, having affordable access to fresh tomatoes, chiles, corn and other vegetables will make a big difference, Cordova explained. And with the high cost of gas, having a garden “next door” to the apartment complexes where the community lives is a Godsend. The community’s first action Saturday was a blessing of the garden. That was followed by the thump of shovels, picks and hoes breaking ground. Children dug into bags of dirt and gently placed the vegetables into the ground, while a little dog named Princesa did her part to dig some holes. Henry Gonzalez, Frito Lay sales executive who attended the garden groundbreaking, offered funding. “One of Frito Lay’s main objectives is to inspire well-being within our communities,” Gonzalez said. “We’re thankful that we can partner with the LLC to promote well-being in this community.” Everything came together at the right time, according to Lopez “The (LLC) helped us by getting tool donations from the Harmon Knecht Family Foundation and funding from Frito Lay,” she said. “When we talked with Eisley Nursery for plants and Empire Landscape for tractor work, they both went above and beyond the funding that was available. We are so thankful.” Cordova emphasized the importance of partnerships in getting the project in the ground. “Our partners should know that they have not only provided the tools for our community, but with the opportunity to work together and share with each other,” she said. “‘That is the lasting harvest we seek, the harvest that will feed them for years to come.”