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July 16, 2013 > Reviving Fremont's Agricultural Heritage

Reviving Fremont's Agricultural Heritage

Submitted By Justine Burt, Images by Paul Welschmeyer Architects

Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont (LEAF) helps connect people with the land, Fremont's rich agricultural heritage and to each other. For the past year, girl scouts in troop #31916, led by Deb Fuller and Debbie Mannia, have grown produce in the circular garden at LEAF Center and donated vegetables to Abode's Sunrise Village. Shashi Chittle's three year old daughter discovered the joys of basil and nasturtiums at LEAF. On a recent Saturday morning, over 20 people crowded in to learn about container gardening from Farmer Donald of Yummy Tummy Farms.

These are the rich experiences LEAF facilitates at their current 0.26 acre site in downtown Niles. While the non-profit has enjoyed the current location at Niles Blvd. and J Street for the past few years, they now have an opportunity to move to a 0.55 acre site at the California Nursery Historical Park (CNHP). Although the space at Nursery Ave. and Niles Blvd. will be new to LEAF, the site is quite old.

A nursery has been located at CNHP nearly continuously since 1884. CNHP is important partly because it grew plants for famous estates like Hearst Castle back when the population of California was much smaller. In its heyday, the nursery at CNHP stretched over 500 acres and was the largest retail nursery west of the Rockies.

The CNHP also played a role in popularizing the use of palms throughout California. A nursery on the site provided all of the palms for the 1915 Panama-Pacific World Exposition in San Francisco. Many of those Canary Island palm trees are still alive and border the Marina in San Francisco.

After moving to the CNHP site, LEAF will continue to perform three main activities that honor the site's heritage. In partnership with other community groups, LEAF will 1) grow plants at their nursery, 2) run workshops on organic gardening and 3) provide space to garden for those with limited access to soil. With LEAF's help, over 600 community members are able to connect with the land by learning the finer points of organic gardening from each other.

One new project LEAF has just initiated is a World Garden. With a generous $15,000 grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Program in southern Alameda County, LEAF has built and will soon plant ten large raised beds, two for each of the five major ethnic cuisines in Fremont. Representatives with expertise in Afghan, Chinese, Filipino, Indian and Mexican cuisines will decide which vegetables and herbs should be planted in each bed. This project will give residents of southern Alameda County a forum to get to know each other over something we all care about: fresh, healthy, delicious food.

LEAF's main focus at this point involves moving over to the CNHP site. Talented local architect Paul Welschmeyer has designed LEAF's new site. At this point, all that stands between LEAF and moving in is raising the last $30,000. If you would like to view or share the crowdfunding campaign video, the link can be found at http://www.razoo.com/story/Local-Ecology-And-Agriculture-Fremont.

LEAF's mission is to build community through learning and action that promote sustainability and local food. Donations to this 501(c)3 non-profit are tax-deductible. You can learn more about LEAF at www.leafcenter.org.

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