OB Community Garden Looking for More Gardeners

by on November 3, 2023 · 0 comments

in Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach

by Dave Schwab / Peninsula Beacon / November 2, 2023

Members of Ocean Beach Community Garden, who just held their annual fall festival on Oct. 21, are actively recruiting new membership.

“This summer we experienced a lot of turnover, and we are now collaborating on exploring options to revive membership,” said spokesperson Melva Gitana-Monsivais, who discovered the community garden, tucked away at 2351 Soto St., via Google. “We hope to get the exposure to keep plots filled and empower the community’s efforts in growing gardens.”

OBCG was first planted in the late ’70s. “Roots of stewardship and community began to flourish when layers of kelp replaced mounds of asphalt,” states the garden website at obcommunitygarden.net. “Like-minded Obecians knew that protecting Mother Earth rested at the center of life. In a manner of collective transformation, the garden started to grow roots that continued to mature four decades later.

Today, about 50 gardeners cultivate organically grown vegetables, fruit, and flowers for personal consumption, and to share locally. The garden is a space for empowerment and education, and thus, a fulfillment of practicing, cultivating, building, inspiring, and educating ourselves and our community.”

On Oct. 21 at their garden party, OBCG members discussed the significance of the garden – and their place in it.

“This is a public plot owned by the City,” noted Gitana-Monsivais. “We’re allowed to plant gardens here because we’ve pretty much made it a community establishment where we can all join and be members. We do have a formal process to become a member. And once you’re a member, you just have to make sure you’re planting something at all times. We keep it (garden) locked, but once you become a member you get a key and you can come and go as you please.”

There is a waiting list and a membership coordinator in charge of that, she added.

OBCG board member Stephanie Mood pointed out that the garden’s founder, Jesse Schwartz, Ph.D., had this vision of Ocean Beach as “gardens growing food everywhere. He would have us meditate and think about all the beautiful things we could grow.”

Early on, the Soto location was just vacant land owned by the City. Mood noted that, when they approached the City years ago about acquiring the untended site, garden proponents argued that “sports have their fields with football or whatever, and we should have a place for gardeners.”

“We currently have 48 garden plots on 1 ½ acres,” said OBCG membership coordinator Patti Elliott noting what’s best about the garden is that “you can grow tons and tons of stuff.” She added there is currently a waiting list right now of about 70 people. “About a year out,” she estimated to become a garden member.

Pointing out there has been a need for a membership reboot following COVID, Elliott added that has been happening. “We’ve had six new members in five months, a turnover of more than 20% this year,” she said adding, “Some people left to start a family. Others moved out of San Diego. It’s attrition. I think it’s great because we’ve got a lot of younger members that are enthusiastic.”

A quick tour of the garden revealed a worm group project creating worm castings full of high nutrients great for plant seedlings. The garden is also divided up into different segments, like a “grape” group and an “orchard” group with members growing stone fruits.

Garden fees for water and other overhead are $100 every six months, which works out to $16.66 per month. One OBCG member noted she can take home a bag of cuttings and groceries and herbs “every two days,” adding “It’s extremely cost-effective for all that you get here.”

Learn more at obcommunitygarden.net.


In 1978, the Ocean Beach Community Garden first planted roots in an empty lot on Brighton Street. The founder was Jesse Schwartz, Ph.D., a former college professor, who envisioned streets lined with fruit trees and front yards filled with vegetable gardens. After a year of successful operation on Brighton Street, OBCG relocated to its current location on Soto Street, adjacent to Collier Park on its west end. The original guiding principle of OBCG was for participants to garden collectively for the benefit of not only themselves but the entire community. OBCG is believed to be the longest, continuously operating community garden on City property.

In 1983, after several years of collective efforts to remove asphalt from the Soto Street site, garden leadership solicited interest in the garden by holding the first Open Garden Day. The current garden leadership has reinstated the original spirit of OBCG with consistent Open Garden Days and monthly educational workshops. OBCG hosts open garden days for the public on the second Saturday of each month. The original OBCG motto, “Come Grow with Us,” is more alive today than ever.

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