On North Lemon Street in Old Towne Orange there’s a vacant lot covered in bare dirt.
But soon there will be a bounty of vegetables, fruit trees and herbs flourishing there, along with an outdoor teaching space where the community can learn about backyard agriculture and experience the delight of farm-to-table gardening.
Thanks to a unique collaboration between Chapman University and the non-profit community group Orange Home Grown
(OHG), the Lemon Street Community Farm has launched at 356 N. Lemon St. Chapman will provide the lot rent-free and OHG will plan and manage the educational farm that will be dedicated to teaching the values and know-how of producing locally-grown food.
The educational farm builds on the success of OHG’s Farmers and Artisans Market held every Saturday at the historic Villa Park Orchards Packing House lot on the Chapman campus. It is the realization of a dream that has been stirring for more than a year, says Brian Kunisch, OHG Board President and Co-Founder of OHG.
“It embodies our mission to help cultivate a healthy community and serves as a new platform for educational, volunteer, and collaborative opportunities. Even in the early stages, as we are now, the support for this farm has been overwhelming and we feel this will continue to grow along with the farm,” he said. “A special thanks to Chapman University for their continued support and generosity to enable the efforts and visions of OHG to come to fruition.”
A central part of the farm will be an outdoor teaching area where classes, workshops and farm-to-table education dinners will be held. Community members will be invited to work the farm, but individual plots will not be available for lease. Produce grown in the demonstration plots will be donated to local food pantries or possibly used by local chefs in special seasonal promotions.
Eventually OHG hopes to include programming led by other groups, as well, from Chapman food scientists to local student groups.
Like its Saturday market, volunteers and community support will be relied on to get the garden up and running and continue its maintenance. Supplies, donations, elbow grease, strong backs and all manner of helping hands are being sought by OHG. A blueprint of the site has already laid out plans for row crops, berry bushes, fruit trees, compost and worm bins, a potting table, storage shed, bike parking and seating benches.
At approximately 8,000 square feet, it’s smaller than many urban farms springing up across the country, but it’s enough to show people what they can do with a home garden, be it a large yard or a planter on a balcony, said Megan Penn, Executive Director and Co-Founder of OHG.
“We’re not saying you have to feed your family just by what you grow, but putting your hands in soil and growing something is good for you,” Penn said. “It’s healthy. It goes into our whole mission of trying to keep our community healthy. We want to help provide resources for people to do that.”
Display image at top/Celebrating the new partnership between Orange Home Grown (OHG) and Chapman University at the Lemon Street Farm are, from left, OHG Board Member Doug Turner, Chapman Vice President of Community Relations Jack Raubolt, OHG Founding Member Nedra Kunisch, OHG Founding Member and Executive Director Megan Penn, Chancellor Daniele Struppa, OHG Board Member Paula Soest, OHG Founding Member Martha Turner and OHG Board Member Glory Johnson.