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National City's give-away produce stand booms

From 40 to 450 families at Olivewood Gardens

“We just added another acre of capacity.” - Image by M.A. Beyster
“We just added another acre of capacity.”

“My husband is a meat guy, and this month we went for nine days without eating meat.” Melissa and her two boys, who look about seven and nine, are waiting at the Olivewood Gardens produce stand on a Thursday morning in May. “We had chicken, but my husband’s like, ‘I need meat,’ ” Melissa said. Over the past four years she has lost 60 pounds on a vegetable-heavy diet. One of her sons likes to try new fruits. They brought a crate of lemons from their backyard tree to share with everyone at the produce stand.

Behind closed gates, workers are hurrying to bag fresh fruits and veggies, harvested on site earlier that day. The line stretches for more than a block through the historic neighborhood of National City where Olivewood has its mini farm and learning center in an old Victorian house.

Tomato seedlings for people to take and grow at home.

The Thursday morning produce stand is a regular event that has exploded in popularity since the onset of Covid-19. By word of mouth, demand has increased more than tenfold — from 40 families per month to 450.

On 1.5-2 productive acres of its 7.85-acre facility, a staff of six Olivewood gardeners has been busy planting and harvesting extra crops. “We just added another acre of capacity,” said executive director Jen Nation. “We’re adding another greenhouse so we can increase the amount of seeds we can sprout and transplant.”

Melissa and her family brought a crate of lemons from their backyard tree.

Olivewood staff shifted priority from using the food they grow for their educational programs to bagging it up and giving it away. And they shifted land use, too. “Where we were growing flowers now we’re growing food,” said Nation. In normal times, Olivewood grows food for National School District. When schools closed they had a huge crop of sugar snap peas intended for the cafeteria salad bar.

“For weeks everyone got a bag of peas,” Jen said.

Today Melissa and her family will take home a selection of oranges, pomelos, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, loquats, cilantro, scallions, and Swiss chard. Coming later in the season: peaches, apricots, pineapple guava, tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. Earlier this year they had tomatillos, pole beans, and peppers. All the fruits and vegetables at the produce stand are grown—mostly from seed—at Olivewood. Since March they’ve given away 1,900 pounds of produce.

Mixed in with the fresh stuff are some dry goods that Olivewood purchases from Sprouts Eastlake Chula/Vista (with donations). Waterwise Gardener and Healthy Day Partners pitched in to provide seedlings for people to take and grow at home. This week: in-season tomato plants.

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“We just added another acre of capacity.” - Image by M.A. Beyster
“We just added another acre of capacity.”

“My husband is a meat guy, and this month we went for nine days without eating meat.” Melissa and her two boys, who look about seven and nine, are waiting at the Olivewood Gardens produce stand on a Thursday morning in May. “We had chicken, but my husband’s like, ‘I need meat,’ ” Melissa said. Over the past four years she has lost 60 pounds on a vegetable-heavy diet. One of her sons likes to try new fruits. They brought a crate of lemons from their backyard tree to share with everyone at the produce stand.

Behind closed gates, workers are hurrying to bag fresh fruits and veggies, harvested on site earlier that day. The line stretches for more than a block through the historic neighborhood of National City where Olivewood has its mini farm and learning center in an old Victorian house.

Tomato seedlings for people to take and grow at home.

The Thursday morning produce stand is a regular event that has exploded in popularity since the onset of Covid-19. By word of mouth, demand has increased more than tenfold — from 40 families per month to 450.

On 1.5-2 productive acres of its 7.85-acre facility, a staff of six Olivewood gardeners has been busy planting and harvesting extra crops. “We just added another acre of capacity,” said executive director Jen Nation. “We’re adding another greenhouse so we can increase the amount of seeds we can sprout and transplant.”

Melissa and her family brought a crate of lemons from their backyard tree.

Olivewood staff shifted priority from using the food they grow for their educational programs to bagging it up and giving it away. And they shifted land use, too. “Where we were growing flowers now we’re growing food,” said Nation. In normal times, Olivewood grows food for National School District. When schools closed they had a huge crop of sugar snap peas intended for the cafeteria salad bar.

“For weeks everyone got a bag of peas,” Jen said.

Today Melissa and her family will take home a selection of oranges, pomelos, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, loquats, cilantro, scallions, and Swiss chard. Coming later in the season: peaches, apricots, pineapple guava, tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. Earlier this year they had tomatillos, pole beans, and peppers. All the fruits and vegetables at the produce stand are grown—mostly from seed—at Olivewood. Since March they’ve given away 1,900 pounds of produce.

Mixed in with the fresh stuff are some dry goods that Olivewood purchases from Sprouts Eastlake Chula/Vista (with donations). Waterwise Gardener and Healthy Day Partners pitched in to provide seedlings for people to take and grow at home. This week: in-season tomato plants.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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