Backyard Garden Program
The Backyard Garden Program builds food self-sufficiency by empowering low-income households to grow fresh produce where they live. Low-income households interested in growing their own food apply to this free program. Our staff then tests their soil for contaminants. Based upon the soil analysis and what the household wants to grow, the household makes a garden plan with our staff. Together, the household gardeners and City Slicker Farms’ staff and volunteers build a garden in only four hours. Backyard Gardeners not only work with City Slicker Farms to create a garden in their yard; they are partnered with a garden mentor to support them through two years of growing food for the table. Mentors provide technical assistance and bring needed supplies, including compost, plants, and seeds for the garden. Backyard Gardeners are responsible for maintaining their gardens. We encourage them to share their harvest and their knowledge with others from the community. After one year of participation, experienced Backyard Gardeners are recruited to provide paid or volunteer mentorship to newer Backyard Gardeners, helping to sustain and expand the program. Backyard Gardeners who have been in the program for six months are eligible for add-ons such as additional garden beds, a composting system, an herb garden, and laying hens.
The Childcare Garden Program: Expanding the Backyard Garden Program Beyond West Oakland
The Childcare Garden program supports childcare providers of all sizes, from home-scale to large institutions, throughout Alameda County. Our services focus specifically on providing gardens to support the emotional, social, educational, and physical health and well-being of children in our community. Gardens provide childcare providers with hands-on educational tools for children and adults alike, and expose children and their families to healthy foods and tools for self-sufficiency.
Participating childcare providers begin with an initial site visit where City Slicker Farms staff meet with childcare providers to assess their site and make sure the space is appropriate for a garden. During this visit, we also connect with providers about what their goals and desires are for having a garden, and plan the next steps of their garden development.
After an initial site visit, we schedule a work day and build a garden in just four hours, working side by side with childcare providers, staff, families and children. During the build we have a great time assembling garden boxes, stringing trellises with twine for beans to climb, running wheelbarrows of soil and compost to fill the boxes, assembling a watering system, and planting vegetables and a fruit tree. Building the garden together gives the children and staff ownership of the garden from the first day, and lays a foundation for many seasons of learning and enjoying a bountiful garden.
A very unique part of our program is the on-going support and training we provide even after a garden is built. Each childcare receives follow-up visits for two years. We bring all the supplies needed to keep a garden growing happily, like compost, plants and seeds. Children are encouraged to be involved in these visits as hands-on learning opportunities. This is also a great time for us to answer questions about how to maintain the garden, and to share ideas of how to use the garden as a learning tool for children.
The Childcare Garden program also provides an annual Garden Training event for childcare providers, typically held at one of the garden sites. On this day we provide more formal training on how to garden successfully, and explore the benefits of gardening with young children. Many childcare providers like to use this event as an opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other providers. At the garden training, we provide a planting calendar, pest management guide, and garden-based curriculum for working with children.
The Childcare Garden program is a grant-funded program that has been supported since 2009 by community organizations such as First Five Alameda County, Community Child Care Council (4C's) of Alameda County, and the Low Income Investment Fund. This program builds on the success of the model of the Backyard Garden Program, bringing it to constituents beyond West Oakland. If you are interested in offering early education gardens through your agency or organization, please contact us.