Over the past few weeks, the nonprofit Daily Acts, in partnership with the Botanical Bus Bilingual Mobile Herb Clinic, has distributed over 300 garden kits to members of the Latinx community and others in Sonoma County, and they hope to distribute 700 more.
“When we were all facing shelter in place, we asked ourselves how we can step into this moment and be part of efforts to support the community,” said Daily Acts Programs Coordinator Connor DeVane, who lives in Forestville.
Their response was a program called “Be the Change,” which focuses on taking personal action to build community resilience. To be a part of this program, people pledge to 1) grow a garden; 2) practice self-care; 3) save resources; and 4) build community. Daily Acts has set a goal of getting 5,000 people in Sonoma County to take the “Be the Change” pledge by the end of the year. To support this program, Daily Acts offers instructive resources, video content and webinars, as well as actions in the field, such as the garden kit program.
DeVane said most of the group’s efforts thus far have been focused around the first principle: Grow a garden. Creating garden kits for the Latinx community has been part of that.
The garden kits contain a variety of donated essentials for growing food, including high quality potting soil from West Marin Compost and Grab N' Grow Soil Products; vegetable seeds from Mercy Wellness and Sonoma County Climate Activist Network; starts of various edible and medicinal plants culturally relevant to the Latinx community grown by Shone Farm, Petaluma Bounty, The California School of Herbal Studies, Occidental Arts & Ecology and Mercy Wellness; GeoPot Fabric Pot planters from Left Coast Wholesale; medicinal teas from Traditional Medicinals and Tadin; and a packet of bilingual educational gardening resources.
DeVane said the garden kits program embodies several of the Be the Change principles: growing a garden, obviously, but also practicing self-care, since through their partnership with the Botanical Bus, the program also provides culturally significant medicinal herbs that many in the Latinx community are familiar with.
“When we first reached out with the idea of collaborating, we asked Jocelyn Boreta (a Botanical Bus co-founder) for her list of the top 10 culturally relevant plants to the Latinx community. Not just plants like tomatoes and chilies, but things like epazote (or Mexican tea) and chamomile,” DeVane said. “We're trying to land in that culturally relevant zone so we get plants that people would want and would actually use, not just what we thought would be good for them.”
DeVane added that the garden kit project was not designed exclusively for the Latinx community.
"We are also aiming to reach low-income and fixed-income families," he said. "The distribution partners we've teamed up with," organizations like the Graton Day Labor Center, La Luz Center in Sonoma and the county’s Community Action Partnership program, "provide services to predominantly Latinx community members. Observationally, the distributions have reached families of various backgrounds."
But DeVane said there were good reasons to start out with a focus on the Latinx community.
“The Latinx community has seen a lot of the health and economic fallout of COVID-19,” he said. “In addition to being an underserved community, many members of our Latinx community don’t have access to the resources for growing food, like having a big garden space or having land to farm. So we saw this as an opportunity to provide access points. We have these little fabric pots that you can use to grow whatever plants you want on a balcony or a patio. If you have the right solar access, you can even grow something inside in your window.”
DeVane said funding for Be the Change is coming from Daily Acts' own internal resources, as well as funding from its city partners, including the town of Windsor, Petaluma and Cotati, and the Board of Supervisors. The funding for the garden kits came the project's many sponsors, which donated everything for the first 300 kits.
DeVane said the demand for the kits is so high that Daily Acts is now trying to raise money to make more.
"We were initially only expecting to do 300 kits, but the need and interest is so high that we now have more demand than we have funding for, so we are seeking additional funding for further distributions."