July 29, 2018| Community Development

Conservation of our land and water resources is inextricably tied to food production and the health of people. If a community doesn’t have control over the health of their land and water, it often means that they don’t have control over their food, and in turn, their health. The Conservation Fund and our partners are working to ameliorate innovative efforts that improve access to fresh healthy food across the United States.

When the U.S. housing market crashed in 2008, Raul Lozano, then executive director of a local theatre company, started noticing something about his neighbors. Worried about their ability to feed their families, they were being forced to go to food banks in the low-income, Latino neighborhoods in San Jose, California where they lived. This gave Raul, who was looking to do something new that made a difference in the world, an idea. 

“I was looking for the next thing to do. I was 55 and I figured I had a good 10 years of good, hard work left in me. And I wanted to affect my community in a positive way, so I just decided: ‘I am going to start teaching people how to grow their own food.’”

Raul started Valley Verde, an organization that helps low-income Santa Clara County residents learn to grow organic vegetables in their own yards. Since it was founded in 2012, the organization has flourished, and now features a three-year gardening apprenticeship program that tops out with the Super Jardineros (super gardeners!) level. This group has excelled through two-years of training to now sow spring and summer seeds for use in home gardens, as well as for sale through local retailers—keeping profits inside the network of growers and community. The Conservation Fund has helped support the Super Jardineros program through a Community Food Sovereignty grant in partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Agua Fund.