Sustainability: Sunnyslope Community Garden

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Community gardens are sprouting up across our state. Community gardens are any piece of land gardened by a group of people, but in one Phoenix neighborhood, the garden is about much more than vegetables. We’ll show you that community gardening effort.

Ted Simons: A community garden is by definition any piece of land gardened by a group of people, but in one Phoenix neighborhood the community garden is about much more than plants and vegetables. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Steven Snow take us there.

Christina Estes: It's not on a list of official mountains in the nation's sixth largest city, but what the locals call S Mountain is just as iconic as Camelback and South Mountains.

Stacy Anderson: Sunnyslope has its own feel and movement, so to speak.

Christina Estes: About 8 miles north of Downtown Phoenix, you'll find Sunnyslope nestled in the foothills of the North mountain range.

Dean Howard: It's one of the best trail systems in the country, right on our back door.

Jeremy Vasquez: A couple years back in the New Times, Sunnyslope was on the front cover. It was called Sunnyslope-topia, and they compared it to the Beverly Hills of Phoenix basically.

Christina Estes: But look beyond the million-dollar homes and Sunnyslope residents admit there are some not-so-pretty, even ugly areas.

Jeremy Vasquez: Yes, this park did have a bad reputation throughout the last decade, at least, with the different drugs in the area and gangs in the area. People are afraid to come to the park and use it and to bring their kids here.

Christina Estes: Jeremy Vasquez is working to change the perception of Mountain View park one plant at a time.

Jeremy Vasquez: If everything goes well, if we get the right amount of sun, right amount of water, we should have tomatoes within about a month and a half.

Christina Estes: The Sunnyslope High School graduate had no idea what was coming when he showed up at the Sunnyslope Village Alliance.

Dean Howard: He walks into the SVA offices and said, I want to sign up my business. What do you do? I'm a gardener. Guess what, we're doing a garden here, and it just rolled.

Christina Estes: Thanks to a $66,000 grant, Sunnyslope business owners and residents convinced city leaders to let them transform a portion of the park into a community garden.

Jeremy Vasquez: We have 4 grow beds right now: two larger grow beds and two smaller grow beds. The smaller are typically for the residents, somebody that can't garden at home, they don't have the space. So they can come out and rent a grow bed for the season or for the year and have their garden out here. Meet new people. Get advice from myself.

Christina Estes: As the garden takes root, the enthusiasm is spreading.

Stacy Anderson: Wow! Congratulations!

Bowler: Thank you.

Stacy Anderson: That was a great spare. Way to go. How is it going?

Christina Estes: Let it Roll Bowl is a couple miles away but general manager Stacy Anderson, who's part of the group that pushed for the garden, says they are scoring points in Sunnyslope.

Stacy Anderson: I care about the people, the people that support the business, and I see the positive things that are going on within the community. It makes you want to be a part of it. I see it as a place that's going to start growing. Similar to the way Downtown was. Downtown Phoenix was an area that took time for growth, and now it's really evolving.

Christina Estes: The gardener also expects a lot of growth.

Jeremy Vasquez: Basil for your Italian and Asian foods. For dessert there's cinnamon basil, lemon basil. It's very cool to know how many different plants there is, if you know how to grow them and proper nutrition you can make anything possible in your garden.

Christina Estes: In addition to neighbors, Vasquez says Phoenix Police and Fire Departments have expressed interest in having their own garden beds.

Jeremy Vasquez: It brings everybody together. You work together, you learn from each other, from young and old, different races. Everybody can interact with each other and not be afraid to learn something different and meet new people.

Christina Estes: Once a permanent fence is installed they will add more beds, and supporters hope more activity at the park.

Dean Howard: Out of this community garden, what we would like to see is places for people to come meet. We came down one time had of our board meetings behind us at the cabanas there. As we were sitting there, we looked across the way and a guy is painting. He's literally painting the sunset. It was beautiful. He's like I come here every day and I paint. That just got the gears going. We want to see people playing chess. We want to see baseball, football, soccer, people playing out here.

Christina Estes: It seems they have plenty of passion, plans and plants to cultivate their dreams.

Ted Simons: That's it for now. You have a great evening.

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