CAP employees turn out to work an urban garden in a “food desert”

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CAP Volunteers

Recently, about a dozen CAP employees and family members volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) urban garden at 3rd Ave. and the I-17. The group prepped beds, planted vegetables from seed and seedlings and weeded existing gardens. This was part of our employee volunteer program, CAP Turnouts. The group has largely been on hiatus due to COVID-19, but has managed a few virtual events and placing flags at the 9/11 Healing Field event in September. This was a perfect return to volunteering – at an outdoor garden on a perfect Arizona fall morning.

This garden is in what’s known as a “food desert” – meaning there are no nearby grocery stores and thus no access to fresh food. The urban farms grow and harvest hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each week. These are used in SVP’s kitchens and added to food boxes for families. The program also promotes self-sustainability by encouraging families to garden, as well.

CAP Volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Urban Garden
CAP Volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Urban Garden
CAP Employees Volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Urban Garden

Using permaculture techniques and chemical-free methods, the farms incorporate local soil and composting on location to promote land and soil regeneration. And on those rare Arizona days when it rains, the garden is ready with rain gutters that drain into an underground cistern.

The farms also incorporate chickens and beehives into the farm practice, which not only increases the biodiversity in the space but educates the community on the importance of these living creatures in our everyday lives. The CAP volunteer group even got to witness the introduction of a queen bee into the hive and learned more about the importance of bees in pollinating the garden.

“I learned a lot about gardening and met folks at CAP that I haven’t yet met,” says Cynthia Rena, Wellness Program administrator. “I especially loved something the beekeeper said, ‘If society were more like bees, we’d be a lot better off!”

The group was so inspired by the event that CAP Turnouts may plan a return visit in the near future to help reap their harvest.