Doug Turner, treasurer for Orange Home Grown, digs to install a PVC pipe irrigation system at the Orange Home Grown Education Farm.
(Photo by Daniel Langhorne)
By Daniel Langhorne
The nonprofit behind the Orange Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market has partnered with Chapman University to build an education farm to introduce the community to the benefits of locally-grown produce.
Orange Home Grown Inc. volunteers broke ground on May 16 at a Chapman-owned lot at 356 N. Lemon St. that was previously used for storage. Megan Penn, executive director for Orange Home Grown, envisions inviting classes of elementary school students to the farm to learn about plant biology, and Orange High School students in the Future Farmers of America program to deepen their knowledge of urban farming.
She also would like to open part of the farm for Chapman students, employees and Orange residents to try their hand at gardening.
“We hope, if we can make this experiment work, we can replicate it,” Penn said.
Digging up dirt
The property’s soil has grown almost as hard as rock over the years, so the first job was laying above-ground irrigation to start loosening it up.
Penn enlisted Doug Kent, an adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Regenerative Studies, to help improve the soil quality at the farm.
Kent, Wayne Gensler and Doug Turner (who is Penn’s father) laid PVC pipe to create a preliminary irrigation system for the farm.
Board members Nedra Kunish, Paula Soest and Glory Johnson clipped dried weeds that had crawled up a chain link fence on the property line that the farm shares with Juana Lemus. When Lemus visited her new neighbors, she asked if they could remove a large tree that has been pushing against her fence.
Penn said she’d be happy to help, and wanted to plant passion fruit along the fence line.
When asked what she thought about the plan to turn the dirt lot into an education farm, Lemus said she was OK with it.
Over the next few months, the focus will be reintroducing nitrogen into the ground by plant-ing cover crops. An Orange Park Acres resident has also offered manure from her horses to help revitalize the soil, Penn said.
Megan Penn (right), executive director of Orange Home Grown, talks to board member Nedra Kunisch (left) and Vice President Glory Johnson outside the Orange Home Grown Education Farm on N. Lemon St. (Photo by Daniel Langhorne)
Volunteers will be needed the most this fall, as the farm prepares to plant citrus trees, berries, grape vines, chocolate mint and leafy vegetables.
Those who patronize local restaurants might be interested to know that several chefs are interested in including the education farm’s produce in their menus. Penn claims that Chef Greg Daniels of Haven Gastropub will even pay some of his chefs to volunteer at the farm.Chapman has supported Orange Home Grown by hosting the Farmers Market at the Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse for the past five years.
“We are delighted and proud to partner with Orange Home Grown on this outstanding project, which will benefit people of all ages in our community,” said Daniele Struppa, chancellor and president-designee of Chapman University. “There is a need for widespread education on growing and choosing healthy food, and teaching young people where our food comes from, and Chapman is thrilled to join with OHG in this important endeavor.”
If you’re interested in volunteering at the Orange Home Grown Education Farm, contact Angela Nichter at firstname.lastname@example.org.