By Emily Glory Peters

It’s winter, but things are still growing at Monrovia Community Garden, a new hub for urban farmers and locals with a hankering for fresh produce. Jointly sponsored by the City of Monrovia and Mountainside Communion Church, the garden has swiftly become fertile soil for neighborly connection.

“A couple of years ago, Monrovia did a huge park survey and having a community garden was the third highest request on the list. It was what the locals wanted,” explains Dr. Kristin Ritzau, director of the garden. As a member of Mountainside Communion, Monrovia resident, and longtime urban farmer herself, Ritzau had a unique perspective on how the garden could impact the way locals interacted. With help from the city, Ritzau and many community volunteers have successfully erected 29 raised beds, with 21 reserved for rental applicants across Monrovia. The remaining eight boxes take pride of placement near the front corner of the church, where anyone may freely partake.

“We’ve had gardeners and harvesters from all walks of life come through,” says Ritzau. “It’s been really beautiful to see.”

Dr. Kristin Ritzau and Monrovia Community Garden team members
Dr. Kristin Ritzau (center) with Tina Cherry, community services director for the City of Monrovia, and Deborah Smith, pastor of formation at Mountainside. – Courtesy photo – Courtesy photo

Ritzau and her team of seasoned gardeners offer free classes to the community, sharing expert tips on tree care, wise watering, kids gardening and more, with additional classes slated for the spring. To encourage sustainability as a city-wide effort, Mountainside Communion has also partnered with LA Compost to create one of the fastest-filling compost hubs in the County.

“There’s a ton of waste that doesn’t have to sit in a landfill. We make it simple so people can drive to the back of the church driveway and drop off their compost,” shares Ritzau. “It’s another example of creating ways to connect with the community.” 

These connections have also created what Ritzau regards as “one of the most positive works of activism” she’s even been part of. Though still considered a pilot program, the community garden has been wildly popular, sparking notions of expansion. Ritzau herself has marveled at how well the project has knit together Monrovia locals, civil servants, and the church community in a shared effort to grow something everyone can enjoy.

“It’s going to sound cheesy, but one of our mottos is ‘grow together,’” says Ritzau, noting the number of stories she’s heard about how the garden has impacted the lives of others. “People are connected by plants in these crazy ways—no one could have predicted that putting some garden beds on a corner would lead to these deep connections. But it keeps happening, and it inspires me to keep growing.”

Monrovia Community Garden is located at Mountainside Communion Church at 303 West Colorado Boulevard in Monrovia and is open sunrise to sunset. To learn more or join the waitlist to rent a bed of your own, contact the Monrovia Community Garden team at www.monroviacommunitygarden.org | info@monroviacommunitygarden.org and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @monroviacommunitygarden.

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