Hundreds of friends and patrons of Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy attended a magnificent en plein air party Saturday, April 29 as The Conservancy celebrated a successful year of raising funds to support school and community gardens for Northwest Pasadena’s most underserved families.
Under deep blue skies and a brilliant sun, friends and donors of the Conservancy explored the intricately planned gardens of the historic 1905 Henry A. Robinson House perched atop the Arroyo Seco, and enjoyed delicious appetizers prepared by Chef Bruce Kalman of Pasadena’s Union Restaurant, as they enjoyed breathtaking views of the greenery around the Arroyo.
During the event, themed “Seeds of Transformation: A Tuscan Feast,” the organization also recognized a number of community leaders who have advocated for the preservation of Pasadena’s natural beauty, helped build four of the City’s community gardens and are working on creating the fifth. Those four community and school gardens, and the fifth being built have been financed by this “homegrown, grassroots” donor collective begun by 30 avid gardeners from Pasadena, San Marino and La Canada as a fund of the Pasadena Community Foundation in 2012.
- Vice Chair Dr. Stephanie Hall presented a Seeds of Transformation award to Dr. Phaedra Ledbetter, who with her husband Mark restored Robinson House, for being a leading advocate in the healthy food revolution for San Gabriel Valley children. “As a side note, I just think this is absolutely the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen in Pasadena,” Hall said as she presented the award. “And on behalf of the PCGC board, may I offer our sincere appreciation to our hosts, who by the way designed these beautiful garden realms themselves. In addition to her design talents, Phaedra’s many accomplishments include her work as a horticultural therapist and a chef focusing on healthful cuisine.”
- Board Member Charles Read presented an award to Principal Juan Ruelas of Madison Elementary School, for his dedication and bravery in transforming the school into what it is now. “Thank you to the PCGC that our school is able to teach students real hands-on lessons in our garden as well as build relationships with the community,” Ruelas said as he accepted the award.
- Board Member Adele Binder gave an award to Jim Folsom and Catherine Allgor from the Huntington Library for their leadership in curriculum development, teacher training, and field trips for PUSD students, to coordinate PUSD’s “Farm to Table” curriculum with pre-science education.
- Susan Osen, one of the organization’s founding members, received the honorary title Board Member Emeritus, for her dedication in raising funds for gardens for Pasadena’s neediest low-income children.
PCGC Founder and CEO Eileen White Read thanked a contingent of Pasadena Unified staff who were on hand, including Master Gardener Jill McArthur (whose salary is underwritten by Conservancy donations) praising them by name for the hard work in making the gardens become reality. Chair Beth Hansen told the assembled group that Ms. Read is retiring from her role as CEO, although she will remain on the board, and thanked her for all of her leadership.
“You’re just terrific!” Hansen said.
The party continued, with guests strolling the delightful shady gardens and noshing.
The Conservancy was born after Pasadena’s former Public Health Director Eric Walsh published the Pasadena/Altadena 2012 Quality of Life Index, which spelled out the health conditions and outcomes facing more than 18,000 residents of Northwest Pasadena living below the poverty line.
The study revealed so-called “food deserts” in Northwest Pasadena – areas with a preponderance of liquor stores and fast-food joints and a dearth of grocery stores, where residents exhibited higher obesity rates. Walsh recommended community gardens and urban agriculture be encouraged throughout the area, so residents could enjoy even moderate physical activity and help combat obesity and diabetes. He also cited studies that said gardeners consume vegetables more frequently than their non-gardener counterparts.
From its first public community garden at Villa Parke Community Center which opened in 2014, Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy’s projects have now grown to four, with a fifth now undergoing construction at Washington STEAM Magnet Academy. Most of the Conservancy’s funding comes from a long list generous donors and sponsors and grants from outside partners.
The Conservancy also underwrites the full-time Master Gardener, who guides community members and schoolchildren through their gardening work, in the hope of making Pasadena’s 12,000 low-income public school students healthier. The Conservancy’s future goals include raising funds to build an additional five public-school community gardens to serve children and families and expand nutritional and botanical offerings.