The Mesa Harmony Garden is currently in fifth place to receive the RainBird “Intelligent Use of Water”$10,000 grant, awarded to projects that promote environmental sustainability, water conservation, and “green” initiatives. Click here to cast your vote.

The garden is a collaboration between the Holy Cross Catholic Church, Santa Barbara City College students, and Mesa neighborhood residents. Its objective: Grow a maximum amount of food for distribution to those in need while minimizing use of natural and financial resources. The gardeners want to use half the money to build a cistern for capturing and storing rainwater collected from the church’s rooftop. In addition, money will be used to buy more trees and potentially purchase an owl house to help with gopher eradication.

The 10,000-gallon cistern they are hoping for would benefit the garden by eventually eliminating the use of municipal water. “The whole idea is to not be on the water system. We don’t want the church paying for that,” said Mesa Harmony Garden president Josh Kane. If the project does not win the grant, Kane said, an alternative solution would be to clog the downspouts on the church roof in order to collect and reroute as much rainfall as possible.

The initiative is utilizing ancient Mayan and Chinese techniques of water conservation, as well as permaculture methods. Much of the land preparation for the garden, located on a one-acre plot alongside Holy Cross Catholic church, has already been completed, including mulching, and the building of berms and swales. All of these are already beginning to collect and conserve water even without the creation of a cistern, Kane said.

Permaculturist and volunteer Larry Saltzman was the first to suggest applying for the grant. Voting officially closes on March 22, 2011, and the winner will be announced by the end of that month. Only the top three projects will receive grants, so Mesa Harmony Garden needs the support of the community in order to win. However, while the grant is much desired, the project will continue regardless of whether or not it is received. “If we don’t get the grant, it’s not the end of the world. We’re still going to do it,” said Kane.

Ryerson, Masters and Associates, in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Food Bank, contributed a $2,000 grant that was used to purchase trees for the garden. An estimated 80 trees have been planted so far, 30 of them by volunteers this past Saturday, and another planting will take place Saturday, January 15, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SBCC student Jan Cross originated the idea for the garden, along with three teammates in an environmental projects course. According to Cross, the Archdiocese provided the final green light on the project. The land, once used by the Chumash to make adobe brick, now serves to bring an array of people together for a project that “promotes community, education, and alternative gardening,” said volunteer Lucia D’Angelo.

According to Kane, although the project is continuous, the goal is to have food ready for picking by next summer. Once ready, volunteers from Backyard Gardeners will pick the food and the Food Bank will distribute it.


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