Welcome back to the Our City Forest blog. If you’ve been following our posts on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Instagram you’re probably aware that there are Big Things(TM) happening at our Community Nursery. Chief among them is the Earth Day-adjacent Spring Plant Sale this Saturday but there are other things planned, including workshops, lectures, and educational stuff for kids. In spite of the ongoing avalanche of activity at the Community Nursery, most people don’t seem to understand what it is. Legitimately, people are confused. Thankfully, you have me to ride in on a white horse with an explanation and jaunty smile. Here’s everything you need to know about the Community Nursery.
This part should be obvious. If you drive up the first thing you see is a wall of greenery (other than the fence and signs with our wonderful sponsors) and you’re probably not surprised to see it. Most people understand commercial nurseries are places that grow plants for profit. That’s part of what we do too. We don’t just grow trees either; our inventory contains approximately 54+ species of trees, 112 species of shrubs succulents and perennials and 17 species of grass. All of these plants are grown with recycled water and sold at cost; we're a nonprofit. We also grow plants for special projects like the Ulistac Natural Area. Our botanical wizzes hunt ecological restoration sites for plant specimens, seeds, acorns and cuttings that we can use to restore native habitat.
So we grow plants there. So what? Every nursery does that! Well my persnickety strawman, our Community Nursery isn’t just a place for us to grow plants. The Community Nursery is the nerve center of our operations, storing our tools, watering equipment, mulch and tree stakes. All of our teams from Lawn Busters to Tree Care make use of the nursery as their one-stop shop for everything they need to do their jobs. If you come to the nursery you’ll probably see our teams at work, loading and unloading trucks with tools, plants and mulch.
I can hear your thoughts, skeptical strawman I’ve invented for rhetorical purposes; I hear you thinking “so what if you guys get lots of use out of the nursery, what’s in it for The Community”. Well as it turns out the Nursery is actually a giant educational hub. We conduct tree identification tours, hold workshops on California Native Plants and how to plant trees correctly. In the past we’ve featured beekeepers and master gardener lectures. We’ve even hosted religious groups for tree-themed festivities! Add the demonstration gardens in and you’ve got a volunteer-operated environmental education center.
You might have noticed that I mentioned beekeepers, that’s because Our City Forest hosts a beehive for year-round pollination. Honey bees range between 2-4 miles from their hives. The Community Nursery is within 2 miles of the Municipal Rose Garden, Santa Clara University, Guadalupe River Park, The Heritage Rose Garden, the community gardens and numerous individual yards. By providing a home to our pollinators we provide a vital service to our open spaces and backyard vegetable farmers. It’s another way we serve our community.
Before we constructed the Community Nursery, the land was an open, gravel lot under the San Jose Airport’s flight path. We took that refuse-covered, weed-infested spot and converted it into the community center you see today. It’s a great use of land that would otherwise go unused and neglected. The presence of hundreds of young trees also helps filter the air of incoming air pollution from the jets that take off day and night.
The only way anything gets done at our Community Nursery is through our dedicated volunteers. We thrive on the energy and spirit of the people of Silicon Valley. Some of our nursery volunteers come daily to help us pot, cultivate and sell our plants. Some come in large teams from local corporations for team-building exercises. We host Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, religious groups and kids from local schools doing service projects. Our Americorps Service Members tend the plants daily and lend their elbow grease and expertise to the Community Nursery. This volunteer energy, this collective act of giving back, builds the Our City Forest family and makes the Community Nursery possible. Without it we wouldn’t have a nursery and we would be poorer for it. All of those services the nursery provides, all of the roles it fills would be left undone.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that today was Earth Day. (Today is Earth Day! Yay!). You might think that’s not super germane to explaining the nursery but, you’re wrong. Earth Day is about environmental protection, to be sure, but who’s protecting the environment. That’s right, volunteers, activists, kids, ordinary people, maybe you. Without those people we don’t have a Community Nursery much less an Earth Day. And if our nursery volunteers are providing so much good to our organization and to our urban environment just imagine the impact of millions of volunteers serving both urban and wild spaces. Earth can only provide its services, its water, its food, its clean air to us if we as a species mobilize to help it. Our Community Nursery is just a small example of what we can do, and I know we can do bigger things.