Sonoma Garden Park
by Sydney Dean
Sonoma Garden Park 19996 7th Street East -Sonoma
Located less than two miles from the Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma Garden Park is truly a hidden gem in Sonoma. Sitting on over 6-acres of land, this park is one of the Sonoma community’s greatest resources. It all began in the 1970’s, when Pauline Bond, a schoolteacher and gardener in Sonoma, left the land as a gift to the City of Sonoma in hopes that it would one day be made into a public park. In 1993, the city of Sonoma partnered with the Sonoma Ecology Center in an effort to begin making Pauline’s dream a reality.
With the continued help of the Sonoma Ecology Center’s educators, ecologists, horticulturalists, and professional farmers, combined with the efforts of the Sonoma County Master Gardeners and volunteers, Pauline’s dream was able to come alive into what is now known as the Sonoma Garden Park. Today, Sonoma Garden Park is both a working farm and a park, boasting over two acres of growing food crops. It is a model of sustainable agriculture, a center of education, and a gathering place for the community. The park itself has several hidden gems within, including chickens, butterfly and bird watching spots, three active beehives, and a magnificent 500-year old Grandmother Valley Oak tree, which can be spotted from all angles of the park.
On the surface, the most rewarding aspect of having a local community park is that it serves as a place to gather. However, as Volunteer Coordinator, Sorrell Allen explains, it is even more rewarding than just that.
“Having a community garden is richly fulfilling because it brings together many people from diverse backgrounds to share knowledge, skills, and experiences. The crops and flowers that are grown here reflect that human diversity, beauty, and abundance! Growing food together is one of the most natural ways to build, empower, and inspire a community.”
This winter, though Sonoma Garden Park may be slightly barren due to the cold weather, there are lots of interesting crops still growing. Some winter crops you’ll find include broccoli, kale, onions, garlic, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. If you take a walk through the park you might also spot some perennial flowers, which continue to bloom despite the recent frosty mornings. Sorrell and Steve, the Garden Manager of Sonoma Garden Park, are also currently growing fava beans. They explained that these little beans are surprisingly beneficial to the park itself.
“We’ve also planted a few beds of fava beans. This yummy bean is a nitrogen fixer that returns nutrients to the soil.”
If you have not discovered or explored Sonoma Garden Park already, now is the perfect season to go! Take a stroll through the park this weekend, and enjoy the quiet, crisp winter air. Or, rent one of two dozen garden plots and start growing your own crops. The Sonoma Garden Park provides the water, space, and sunlight, so all you need is your green-thumb to start growing your own food alongside others in the Sonoma community. The Sonoma Garden Park is also a great place for educational learning. The park offers K-12 events, classes, and camps to teach children about nature, environmental science, and sustainability. In addition, the Sonoma Ecology Center’s “EnviroLeader” program teaches high school students the basics of sustainable agriculture and restoration work, while conferring crucial life skills and career skills.
You can also purchase fresh eggs and food grown in the park, at the market in the Straw Bale Barn on the property each Saturday, from May through November. You’ll be surprised to discover that the Straw Bale Barn at Sonoma Garden Park is the first straw bale structure to be built in Sonoma. The barn also boasts solar and water-wise features, which help in Sonoma Garden Park’s efforts to show the community the beauty and efficiency that can come from a sustainable farm.