Grow your own fruits and veggies

Saddleback's horticulture department teaches students how to grow plants, work in native surroundings and learn about natural resources. (Betsy Johnson/Photo Editor)

Saddleback’s horticulture department teaches students how to grow plants, work in native surroundings and learn about natural resources. (Betsy Johnson/Photo Editor)

The city of San Juan Capistrano held a Grow Your Own event at the Ecology Center on Saturday, April 16. The event consisted of stations where adults and kids learned about saving water, growing plants from seeds, making fresh tea and managing a garden.

People listened to a live country band while sipping on strawberry-basil lemonades, while learning about different compost piles and what the proper pot is for growing tomatoes.

Sarah Palmer was excited about programs like this because she feels that it is important for people to know about plants and how to take care of them. Palmer started gardening when she was a child with her grandmother and has kept the tradition alive so she can build the same memories with her own kids.

“I am currently growing 20 different varieties of fruits and veggies,” Palmer said. “I wasn’t trying to be self sufficient because I don’t have the space to grow for a family of four, but I don’t like shopping for produce at the grocery store because I don’t know what chemicals have been used on them.”

The center was developed for students, families or individuals who want to learn about gardening and environmental solutions through hands-on experience.

The farmhouse was built in 1878, providing surroundings for landscapes and eco-labs food, water, energy, waste and shelter. Founder and executive director Evan Marks started the program because he believes that people have the ability to impact the environment through individual change.

Volunteers helps people at tables while surrounded by raised garden beds (Betsy Johnson/ Photo Editor)

Volunteers at the Eco-Center help people at tables while surrounded by raised garden beds (Betsy Johnson/ Photo Editor)

Saddleback College has a horticulture program so students can learn the ins and outs of native plants, proper planting months and how to care for your own personal garden.

Saddleback student Michelle Minkler, 45, is taking the class so she can get certified in horticulture therapy.

“Gardening is beneficial in an active way where you sweat and release endorphins, it is also passive,” Minkler said. “I sit in my backyard and mentally the affect of nature is relaxing, it lowers blood pressure, there is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from gardening.”

Minkler has been gardening for 16 years now and is growing peaches, lemons and pomegranates, along with other native plants. At school her and her partner Heather work together while learning how to maintain and reap the benefits of gardening.

Instructor Robert Farnsworth, chair of the horticulture department, has been teaching for eight years, became interested in learning about water conversation and having the desire to teach others about it.

“Without water no plants, without plants no life, water comes first,” Farnsworth said.

Having classes at schools and local farms, gives people a way to learn about surroundings and respect where you dwell. Farnsworth stated that people must grow their own food if they want better foods with less chemicals.

“The average carrot travels 1,600 miles from farm to table, that uses a lot of bunker fuel in ocean traders or fuel trucks,” Farnsworth said. “If we are growing them locally we cut down carbon footprint and chemicals in foods and they taste better too.”

Growing locally has made a comeback in the community. Not only will grocery stores benefit from organic foods, people can through therapy too. Scientists have proven that for hundreds of years horticulture therapy has released endorphins and helps sick patients regain health.

“It is a scientific fact that horticulture therapy works, even current scientific discoveries have shown the soil organisms are an anti-depressant,” Farnsworth said. “Working with your hands and dirt does make you feel better.”

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