Community April 18th, 2017

Vegas Roots & Cultivating Community

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Well, if Mary is anything like the multitude of happy gardeners who’ve maintained plots at the Vegas Roots Community Garden over the past seven years, then I’d say it’s growing very well.

sequoia national park

Vegas Roots, established in 2010 by Nevadan native and former schoolteacher, Rosalind Brooks (known by all as Roz), rests on five acres just north of downtown Las Vegas. The whimsically decorated, visitor-friendly grounds awakened a previously desolate piece of land. Even though Roz has led a nutritionally healthy lifestyle throughout adulthood, she never factored farming into that equation. The garden “found" her and is now the passion that awakes her each morning. While a solopreneur on this gardening journey, her very supportive husband and two adult daughters are Roz’s biggest cheerleaders.

The nitty-gritty

The garden’s main generator of revenue are the 32 raised-bed plots available for the general public to rent, maintain and grow all the fruits and veggies their heart's desire. On average, the plots are kept by individuals, families, schools and organizations for about a year.

Also gracing the grounds are picnic tables, which are put to great use during crafting events, a freestanding stone pizza oven for community gatherings, and the friendliest free-range, egg-laying chickens you’d ever hope to meet. (Not that anyone really hopes for that, do they?) They regularly waddle out of their coop to mingle with the visitors throughout the day. Those chickens contribute more than just eggs and happiness, as their feces are cycled into the compost then used as fertilizer.

sequoia national park
zion national park

In addition to the raised beds, a portion of this garden’s acreage is dedicated to open planting. Swiss chard, artichokes, turnips and everything in between are grown in this section called the U-Pick Farm. Vegas Roots volunteers plant, maintain and harvest the delicious bounty grown in this area and distribute it to various charitable programs.

Just as the name implies, the general public is encouraged to pick as much as they can. They then offer a donation for their pickings. You can’t find that kind of a fresh deal in the grocery store! Not to mention all contributions to the garden go a long way in helping many underserved communities.

Since the summer of 2016, through a grant Roz secured from the Southern Nevada Health District, the garden has taken wholesomeness “on the road” with their Veggie Buck Truck. This fresh pop-up market on wheels targets low-income neighborhoods that are essentially food deserts. As this demographics experiences higher incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, the Buck Truck’s initiative surpasses that of just providing fruits and veggies — it’s restoring the health of many who need that assistance the most. Shoppers even get $2 in extra produce for every $5 they spend.

Vegas Roots also grows community relationships by offering activities galore throughout the year for business owners, individuals and families alike. Here is a small sampling:

• Spring Gardening 101 Workshop
• Movie Night Under the Stars
• 9-week "Ending Type 2 Diabetes" program based directly on Dr. Fuhrman's best-selling "The End of Diabetes" book.
• Inaugural Harvest Dinner with the theme, “An Evening in the Enchanted Garden.”
• Lil’ Roots monthly garden cooking classes for children
• Edible yard program, where Vegas Roots is contracted to build raised bed gardens in residents’ backyards

sequoia national park
zion national park

Zappos + Vegas Roots

As of January 2017, Zappos can boast of a partnership with Vegas Roots. Back in 2015, Roz reached out to Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, because of his involvement with the Downtown Project, and invited him to check out her establishment. She knew it was a long shot that he would ever come to the garden, yet that didn’t stop her from inviting him.

As a big fan of Vegas Roots and a friend of Roz, I incorporated a couple of my Journaling Club events at the garden by taking Zappos co-workers there to enjoy the atmosphere. Who knows if that exposure had anything to do with it, but two years after Roz’s invitation, Tony arrived at the garden for a tour.

Impressed with what he saw, Tony even offered Roz a few suggestions for generating revenue. One such suggestion was to sell bags of veggies to the community, including Zappos employees. So, since January, the veggie bag program has been delivering weekly reusable canvas bags filled to the brim with fresh produce to employees who sign up before delivery. The garden’s goal is 75 bags per week and already a recent week resulted in 64 bags delivered! In time, I’m sure more will see what a healthy bargain this is at just $20. (In fact, the employee pays only $10 while the remaining is subsidized by Zappos. Such a deal!)

sequoia national park

To enhance this partnership, Zappos recently started a garden club complete with four of our very own extra large, raised bed plots. Gardening classes helped us jumpstart the planting process and the company’s well on its way to harvesting some delicious goodies that will benefit all Zapponians.

Becoming involved

Monthly $10 memberships help the garden achieve their mission of nourishing the local community with freshly grown foods. As a Vegas Roots member myself, and a frequent visitor, I’ve seen firsthand how one’s support — any amount, big or small — creates an amazingly positive domino effect toward those less fortunate.

Should you wish to contribute, here’s a breakdown of how your gift helps Vegas Roots do the following:

$500: Build a new raised garden bed
$250: Provide space for a low-income family to farm at Vegas Roots
$100: Teach gardening and nutrition to children in low-income schools
$50: Share seeds, transplants, and education so that everyone can grow their veggies
$25: Sponsor a family’s garden plot fees for water and maintenance

In addition to financial support, Vegas Roots welcomes physical volunteer support on any day they’re open (Tuesday thru Saturday). Whether you'd like to channel the gardener in you, have artistic skills with painting and crafts, or would like to contribute in another way, there's something for everyone to do! There’s nothing contrary about it; Vegas Roots is the perfect place to grow new experiences.