The Neighborhood Garden Initiative teams up with Bulb Bliss to promote veggies for all in Sonoma County and beyond.

Growing Community: Savita Wilder of Bulb Bliss.

When Ammon Jordan set out to write a children’s book about sustainability and green living a few years ago, he had no idea that the project would, well, balloon into something more. 

But somewhere along the road to creating Welcome to Balloon City, he came to realize that, “If we’re going to put out a book like this, then we’re going to have to walk the walk as well.” And so in December of 2020 he founded the Neighborhood Garden Initiative (NGI) nonprofit with the express goal to, in his own words, “put a garden in every home, share our knowledge and bounties with one another, and continue to help put the food system back into the hands of the people.”

Six months into the endeavor, he met Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market vendor Savita Wilder, who owns local business Bulb Bliss. The two bonded immediately, realizing that they shared similar ethics and visions, and now not only does the 1.3-acre, suburban farmstead Bulb Bliss serve as the nonprofit’s campus, but Savita and her husband, Jim, play integral roles at NGI. Savita teaches volunteers about the soil and veggies while Jim sources materials and teaches the crew how to build raised beds. Ammon, in turn, organizes meetings and garden builds, recruits volunteers, partners with local businesses, and keeps everyone accountable.

On a tour of her farmstead, Savita pointed out various gardens, a chicken coop, a greenhouse and a vernal pond as well as a pump house and a solar array. She experiments with many types of bulbs for Bulb Bliss, but daffodils, which are gopher proof, are  her favorite.

NGI Treasurer Hailey Kasofsky wants everyone to have fresh veggies.

“We don’t use any chemicals whatsoever on the property, and we reuse materials as much as we can,” she said, explaining how the wood lining a garden bed was lumber that Jim salvaged from a highway construction project and how the greenhouse came from a defunct pot farm.

At the foot of the farmstead driveway sits the result of a recent partner project, a new farm stand, which allows her to provide both bulbs and veggies to the local community without leaving home. Local company Summit Engineering’s “green team” built the stand last summer as one of its monthly community projects, using materials from two spa structures Jim sourced for free.

With a volunteer crew of about 10, NGI has now built 12 gardens, 7 of those in Sonoma County and the rest in the East Bay. So far NGI has survived without any major grants, instead collaborating with several other nonprofits and local businesses, including Farm to Pantry, Petaluma Seed Bank, and Prickett’s Nursery.

The 2nd Annual Market to Market Earth Day Ride is planned for April 22, from 9am to 2pm. Like last year’s successful event, the fundraising and community-building bike ride will begin at Santa Rosa Community Market and follow the Joe Rodota trail to the Sebastopol Community Market for food, drink, and music.

Volunteer Victoria Diaz helps to provide gardens for those who want them.

In addition, two new farm stands are high on the 2023 to-do list, and Ammon envisions an app and a community challenge in the not-too-distant future. The app will be a resource for the NGI community, providing a map of completed and proposed gardens and allowing people to swap produce and expertise. The Sonoma Summer Produce Challenge will incentivize local organic food commerce with punch cards for produce purchased at local farmers’ markets and health food markets, and a raffle.

In the meantime, the community-minded nonprofit remains a garden-variety grassroots endeavor, powered by volunteers, dedication, and the vision of a garden in every home. “NGI is always seeking out people who are in alignment with what we’re up to and want to come volunteer,” Savita told me during my visit, adding with a laugh, “I don’t think we’ll reach corporation status any time soon.”

Contact the Neighborhood Garden Project at . . . to request a garden installation or assistance maintaining your pre-existing personal or community garden, or to donate to their cause.

Visit Bulb Bliss: for your flower bulb, plant, bouquet and garden consulting needs!


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