Fortuna garden helps feed the hungry

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Fresh vegetables from the Fortuna Garden Project are improving the overall nutrition of those who rely on food from the Fortuna Community Services Food Bank and the St. Joseph Pantry Shelf.

The 1.5 acre garden is located just off Newburg Road on land leased from the Diocese of Santa Rosa, and operated in partnership with Fortuna Adventist Community Services.

Last year was spent laying the groundwork for the garden, and this year it is providing the first bountiful harvest. Vegetables planted in the garden include three kinds of squash, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, spinach, green beans, radishes, and lots of potatoes. "By the end of this growing season," garden coordinator Steve Palecki said, "we will have grown and distributed close to 1,000 pounds of food."

In addition to the Food Bank and Pantry Shelf, the Fortuna Garden Project sells some of its produce to Clendenen's and Humboldt Healthy Foods in Fortuna, the Fernbridge Produce Stand, and Loleta Cheese Factory. The money raised helps cover the watering cost associated with the garden.

Palecki wants to say thank you to everyone who made the Fortuna Garden Project a reality, and to everyone who currently supports it. "Every day when I am out here working, someone happens to come by and ask 'What can I do to help?'," Palecki said. Volunteers work the garden from planting to harvest.

"This project would not be possible with generous donations and support from the community," Palecki said. A grant from the Mel & Grace McLean Foundation was used to install the infrastructure for the garden, irrigation supplies were donated by Wyckoff's Plumbing, Fortuna Feed and Fortuna Ace Hardware both offered discounted garden supplies, and Nor Cal Soil offered 10 yards of premium soil (which was transported to the Fortuna Garden by someone who donated the dump truck services). Palecki added that an anonymous donor came out to mow the field and prepare the dirt for planting.

The Fortuna Garden Project is registered as organic with the state of California, meaning no pesticides or harmful chemicals are used to grow the vegetables. The garden uses natural methods of deterring wildlife such as deer, which have shown a preference for the carrots. Palecki said they covered the carrots with netting to stop the browsing.

"Overall the response to the garden has been something else," Palecki said enthusiastically. "One of the best feelings is knowing we can do something, and then actually doing something to make a difference."

photo captions:

Photos by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Fortuna Garden Project Coordinator Steve Palecki harvesting squash from the 1.5 acre location just off Newburg Road

2. Purple cabbage is one of the many vegetables grown as part of the Fortuna Garden Project.

3. Netting is used to protect carrots growing in the garden from browsing deer.