The Grossmont Union High School District Governing Board is out of touch with reality. The arguments behind their refusal to back the community garden at Helix Charter High School are so far out there that it would be laughable if not for their negative consequences. I fear we may have elected some folks who have lost their minds.
According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are over 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada. Based on board member Jim Kelly’s assertions, you would think that having a community garden was a radical experiment, unsuited to our peaceful community.
The Board cited as one of their reasons for not supporting the project that people might contract food poisoning because organic gardening techniques would be employed. Really? Can’t say I remember a single recall or e-coli outbreak for organic food. There have been quite a few for the more conventional, “factory-farm” produced vegetables the Board must hold in higher regard.
Vegetable gardens are just too risky, what with trained master gardeners from the UC Extension allowed to run amok and mingle with experienced community volunteers. How could we possibly expose high school students and interested members of the community to this type of dangerous environment?
After all — growing your own food is dangerous. Perhaps it is so risky that we should no longer allow science students to grow plants from seeds — our kids might get sick from handling nutrient-rich soil.
Another reason they cited was the destruction of a vacant sand lot by a vegetable garden. Destruction of a vacant sand lot: Apparently the preservation of endangered vacant sand lots on high school campuses is a big problem. I’m sure that by preserving the sand lot over growing organic vegetables, we will have improved/maintained a superior quality of life and ensured that future generations will not be deprived from the joys of ignoring the vacant sand lot as they walk by.
As for their assertions that the garden could be overrun by hordes of homeless, or that the vegetables could be the target of vandalism, if we allowed worries like these to influence our actions, we would never build anything. Besides — the District was to be protected by a “hold-harmless” agreement, and the gardeners were prepared to carry $1 million in liability insurance. The gardeners had the support of the community, and were funded by a federal grant. There was no real risk to the District.
One can only assume that Superintendent Swenson, Jim Kelly and the Board members who voted against the garden are either leading lives insulated from reality, or that they have lost their minds. Clearly, it will be our civic responsibility to not return these Board members to their offices next election day, and perhaps the district should re-examine its choice for superintendent.
Kudos to Board members Schreiber and Hoy for their support of what could have been a great community garden and partnership between La Mesa and the students of Helix Charter High. Shame on the rest of you.