What if We Grew a Garden and Gave the Food Away

By Pat Basham

That simple question was the beginning of a phenomenon. Self-sustaining gardens have sprouted throughout Butte County, providing free food to hundreds who’d never had nutritious affordable options.

Homeless shelters, residential and rehabilitation facilities, schools, day care centers, clubs, and neighborhoods are harvesting the many benefits of gardening thanks to From the Ground Up (FTGU). Yet growing and giving away food was just the start of social change that has magnetized the support of many dozens of area businesses, musicians, clubs, artists, and activists. How did this happen?

Meeting with the masterminds of FTGU was a joy. The energy of their mission, vision, and dedication is like organic super-powered fertilizer. Add hard work, tireless volunteers, a generous community, and sunshine, and well … magic just has to happen.

FTGU_Logo_300dpi-copyFor FTGU founder and Executive Director Jenny Lowrey, awakening to an organic, nutrient-rich, unprocessed-food lifestyle literally saved her life. After she had seven heart attacks, two strokes, too much extra weight, and way too many medications, her doctor fired her. She knew serious change or death were the only remaining options.  Jenny and cofounder Bruce Matthews dove in with no previous gardening or nutrition experience yet produced astonishing results. Then they decided to share the success. “Safe, healthy, nutritious food is not only for the wealthy,” said Jenny.

FTGU Is about So Much More Than Gardening!

Planning, building, planting, tending, and harvesting the gardens is just the first course of this delicious offering. FTGU sponsors free workshops on all aspects of gardening, harvesting, nutrition, food preparation, Mason jar meals, and food storage. It’s entirely volunteer run and all at no cost to participants. No one takes a salary. All of the food grown is donated to food pantries and programs feeding anyone in need.

What makes FTGU unique? “It’s the personal aspect,” said Tami Donnelson, FTGU Board president and volunteer. “Everyone has their hands in the dirt. Education is population specific, tailored to the audience and garden location.” Communities are built as residents pull their own weeds, share resources, and enjoy the bountiful harvest. Taking ownership fosters pride and returns control over one’s life.

Need food? “We’ve never had to turn down a request for food,” Jenny said, “but daily we have to turn down requests for gardens.” Once a group agrees to maintain a garden, FTGU will help with everything else: funding, building, hands-in-the-dirt education, harvesting, and meal preparation. “We provide a low-cost model that anyone can follow.” For example, $200 provides all that’s needed for a 10’x4’ planted raised bed to easily feed a family of four with fresh veggies all year.

“When conscious people come together great things happen,” said Tami. “We want Lotus Guide readers to come play with us! We want what you have to offer, like a potluck of experience, knowledge, and intentions.”

FTGU extends heartfelt gratitude to The Pollination Project, Safeway Foundation, The Hignell Foundation, and the dozens of area businesses and individuals who have provided financial, equipment, and physical support! Please visit www.fromthegroundupfarms.org for a full list of supporters!

Ways to Get Involved

Consider a neighborhood garden—great for neighborhood watch.

Lend out your garden.

Have something you want to share with the community? FTGU will provide the space and the audience.

Need funding for a garden idea? FTGU will help you get it.

To get involved contact:

From the Ground Up

1692 Mangrove Ave. #105, Chico, CA 95926