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January 27, 2010 > Fremont to turn over a new LEAF

Fremont to turn over a new LEAF

By Alissa Gwynn
Photos By courtesy Bill Merrill

Imagine a place where organic fruits and vegetables abound, delicious food is locally grown, and neighbors can meet and enjoy each other's company sans technology. Well, Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont, or LEAF, is an organization aiming to make this dream a reality at California Nursery in Fremont.

Bill Merrill, former manager of Navlets Garden Center in Fremont and board member of LEAF, says, "Fremont itself lacks community. We go shopping, go to work, and go to bed. We've lost the connection to the earth that agrarian people used to have." To change this current situation in Fremont, he, and other members of LEAF, are working to establish a community garden open to anyone interested in growing their own food.

Ideally, the garden will be a community effort, where anyone who would like a garden will be given a portion of the area. For those who have little experience with gardening, Merrill and other experienced gardeners will have a demonstration garden set up and will teach them about the tools and techniques used to grow successful crops. As far as the types of fruits and vegetables readily available in this area, Merrill says, "We live in a considerable agricultural area; there is very little limitation of what can be grown here." Any non-tropical plants-lettuce, broccoli, squash, corn-can be grown and enjoyed locally.

In addition to helping form a community bond among Fremont residents, according to LEAF it strives to, "provide environmental education to the Fremont community about sustainable and ecological practices. These include local organic food production and gardening, waste reduction, green building, and conservation, and build community among the diverse residents of the City of Fremont." In other words, establishing a community garden for all would be an economical and eco-friendly alternative to importing food from elsewhere, especially because Fremont is particularly well-suited for agriculture.

In fact, not only is Fremont agriculture friendly, but California Nursery in Niles actually used to be the origin of the grapes, plums, and other European fruits that eventually filled the central valley farm field. Additionally, Mission San Jose was the only Mission that had a net export of agricultural goods. Discussions among members at the LEAF website,, include topics like restoring Fremont's cultural heritage by expanding the olive oil business, getting schoolchildren involved in community gardening, and holding festivals and cooking demonstrations open to the community.

LEAF held their first physical project two weeks ago, pruning an orchard at the California Nursery property. About 30 people volunteered to prune the orchard, which dates back to the 1930's. Merrill instructed the volunteers and gave classes as to how apricots and cherry trees should be pruned. "The next step," says Merrill, "is to develop the nursery land and hopefully receive grants to help begin the community garden."

To get involved in LEAF and community gardening, join the online group at

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