Orange sun bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, Detroit red beets, salad greens— when it comes to organic seedlings, Long Beach Organic (LBO) has plenty. That’s why this Saturday, instead of a traditional fundraiser, the nonprofit will host “Go Plant Me!,” a distribution of organic seedlings in exchange for donations.
“There are certain food deserts where people don’t have the advantage of farmer’s markets or fresh produce,” LBO Board Member Kim Campanelli said. “This is to give people a chance to start smaller gardens at home.”
The fundraiser will offer seedling packs of vegetables like beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, squash, tomatoes and a variety of peppers.
They’ll also be offering leafy greens like arugula, basil, cabbage, chard, chives, cilantro, collards, dill, fennel, kale, lettuce, mustard and spinach.
For those who want to give their existing gardens a lift, LBO is also offering fertilizers like mealworm castings and worm tea. Fertilizers run from $5 to $15. Seedlings cost $3 per six-pack and some vegetables are available in multiple species.
LBO’s fundraiser is also welcome to inexperienced gardeners. A master gardener will be on site at the fundraiser to offer advice on plant care. The nonprofit has also created information sheets for each different plant type to make sure their new owners are properly advised on their maintenance.
The Zaferia Junction Community Garden is one of eight community garden spaces that Long Beach Organic operates in the city.
Image Courtesy Long Beach Organic
Though LBO is focused on the creation of community gardens, they’re also dedicated to alleviating food insecurity.
“We transform vacant and unsightly lots into beautiful garden spaces,” she said. “Then we share products through other community organizations to service underprivileged residents in need.”
Despite the limitations of the pandemic, LBO has donated 3600 pounds of organic produce to Cal State Long Beach’s food pantry since last April. This feat wasn’t easy. With garden closures, LBO hasn’t been able to host their typically once-monthly “work parties” where members tend to gardens’ common space.
“That’s been a struggle with trying to maintain the gardens, because we haven’t been able to have those [get-togethers],” she said. “But I think it’s been very helpful for people because they can actually get out and get their hands dirty, and not feel like they’re compromised with a crowded area.”
Campanelli is a gardener herself. In 2015, after a string of layoffs at her former employer, she turned to an organic gardening class at Victory Garden.
“I learned the basics of gardening and how to start planting seeds and how to mend the soil,” she said. “It was a stress reliever for me.”
After a year of pandemic woes and every-changing circumstances, more than half of all adults could use some stress relief. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from Feb. 2021 found that 53% of Americans reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted due to stress and worry over COVID-19— an 11% increase from March 2020.
A related study showed that households experiencing job or income loss were more likely to report that worry or stress over the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health.
Studies show that gardening could help relieve this stress. One meta-analysis of multiple studies showed “a significant positive effect of gardening on the health outcomes” and that “a regular dose of gardening can improve public health.”
A 2018 study showed that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to both mental and physical health.
“For me, [gardening] gave me a sense of pride, to watch them emerge from the soil and to actually produce stuff,” Campanelli said. “I started to learn more about the food, how it’s used, and the pride that you grew it, I think, was a big thing for me.”
“Go Plant Me!” will take place this Saturday, March 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Zaferia Junction Community Garden, 3709 E. 10th Street. Those who want to acquire seedlings can fill out a preorder form on the Long Beach Organic website. LBO will stagger pickup times to adhere to social distancing.