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A garden...saved from wildfire...helps feed the community

All that remains of a tree...just 100 feet from the barn that was saved from extensive fire damage.

It's impossible to truly get a sense for the power of a raging wildfire just from viewing video footage.  The CZU Lightning Complex fire - caused by an extremely unusual thunderstorm that spit thousands of bolts of lightning into unusually dry forests - spanned a huge swath of coastal area from just south of the town of Pescadero nearly reaching the outskirts of the city of Santa Cruz.  Almost 1,500 structures were destroyed by the fire.

Walking uphill onto the grounds of the Rancho Seimpre Verde tree farm that boarders the the Pacific Coast Highway, to the left and right are huge eucalyptus trees, blackened well up their trunks by the flames.  The ground is grey & black ash.  As far as you can see looking up onto the ridge, nothing but charred remains.  You can't imagine how hot the temperatures must've been.  

Handle grips melted off of a wheelbarrow.

Incredible that the sign survived.  Whatever was in the sacks to the right did not.

The RSV Tree Farm has been in the Kosek family for many years.  Nickie Irvine, an ardent GROW San Mateo supporter, knows Jake Kosek very well and arranged for our visit to the farm yesterday.  The farm is known as a Christmas tree farm and reading the comments on the gofundme page created to help Jake and his family recover from the fire - local families have many fond memories of visiting RSV during the holidays. 

From what I gather, Jake is a geography professor at UC Berkeley.  Amongst the conifer trees grown for sale is an apple orchard, field of sunflowers and the most beautiful garden with rows upon rows of every kind of produce you can imagine.  Jake regularly takes produce from the garden to the local food bank in Berkeley.  With his attention diverted to rehabilitating the farm's electrical and irrigation systems, he kindly opened the garden to us to harvest for the Samaritan House Food Pharmacy.

Nickie & John harvesting lettuce, kale, swiss chard & cilantro.

It was somewhat surreal to be picking the most beautiful cherry tomatoes in a lush, green garden to the smell of smoke & ash.  At one point during the fire, the garden must have been almost entirely surrounded by fire, yet the greens, tomatoes, cucumbers all went unscathed.  And pumpkins - wow.  

Looking up at the fire scorched ridge from the garden.

A stark contrast:  an amazing cherry tomato harvest in the foreground;  in the background, the stumps of trees at the edge of the garden that needed to be removed due to fire damage.

By early afternoon, our cars were loaded up with tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce, apples, pears, sunflowers and pumpkins.  

 After spending the evening washing & packaging - this morning our harvest from RSV, along with donations from other gardeners in the community, was delivered to the Food Pharmacy for distribution to Food Pharmacy clients - who will receive them this afternoon.  Fresh produce - just harvested - and free of charge.  Thank you RSV Tree Farm and the Kosek family - and all of our local gardeners for making nutrient rich, flavorful ingredients available to those in our community who need it most.

A pumpkin patch at the Food Pharmacy.


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