DELANO, Calif. (KERO) — Despite being the heartland of agriculture, communities like Delano, Wasco, and Arvin are considered food deserts, meaning it is difficult to access healthy foods. Now, a community garden is slowly changing this.
Delano residents Salvador Arceo and his wife Ramona Silva Arceo are among the people participating in the Adventist Health Community Garden in Delano, The Arceos have been growing food in the garden since March, and feel a sense of pride in their investment in the community and their own health.
“Because this food is healthier, as it has no chemicals or anything else sprayed on it,” said Arceo. “It’s clean and for our health, everything we harvest here is better.”
The Areceos have grown watermelons, oranges, lettuce, onions, green peppers, and corn. They also grow fruits to make juice every morning, and even though it’s only been a couple of months, they say they feel healthier already.
"We have made some delicious salsa and grew some really big broccoli," said Ramona.
She says if they didn't have this garden, it could be impossible for them to afford organic produce at the store. Now they grow what they like to cool with and save a lot of money at the store.
This makes a huge difference for all those using the garden, as Delano is a low-income community with groceries not as readily available as other areas.
On top of that, health care physicians with Adventist Health say more residents in Kern County die of diabetes than anywhere else in the state. The county also has the highest obesity rates in California, yet one in four kids are insecure.
Ramona saying that is why she thinks it is beautiful to see more families bring their kids to the garden to learn about healthy eating.
And beyond the healthy food and the physical aspect, Ramona Arceo shared how therapeutic it has been to connect with others in the community and simply feel connected to the soil.
“Especially for seniors, I hear a lot about people who have depression, anxiety, and here all of that goes away,” said Ramona. “I don’t suffer from that but for me, all my worries are gone when I focus on my harvest.”
They also feel this plot of land is a little slice of home, as they both grew up harvesting with their families in Mexico.
Now that the Arceos are both retired, they feel the community garden has given them something to take care of again.
“Despite my age, I am still here shoveling, doing what I can, and proving we still have much more to give,” said Ramona.
The Delano Community Garden works on a first come, first served basis. Currently, they have all 105 plots filled. They are looking to continue expanding the garden so that more people can enjoy the service. Recently they received a grant from The Alfred Harrell Foundation to serve the landscaping and create additional educational opportunities around healthy eating. Anyone interested is asked to call 661-721-5216 or visit their website.