Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Intergenerational garden dedicated at Cuyamaca College

Preschoolers present their artwork to Supervisor Dianne Jacob
With the snip of the scissors, an intergenerational garden at Cuyamaca College was officially dedicated Tuesday with a “vine-cutting” ceremony led by county, college and college district officials, who touted the site’s educational and health benefits to East County.
Funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, the garden is a 1/3-acre plot between the Child  Development Center and the Water Conservation Garden that is well on its way to produce a bountiful crop of produce at a site made possible by not only by the efforts of eight senior volunteers – the “Gardening Grannies” --  but several community groups and vendors.
For the children, ages 2-5, the intent of the garden is to teach good nutrition to a population accustomed to diets heavy on processed foods. For the seniors, it’s a healthy outdoor activity and an opportunity to connect with kids.
“What a wonderful concept – our older generation working with and teaching the youngest generation who are here at Cuyamaca College in our early-childhood program,” said Chancellor Cindy L. Miles, who joined college President Mark J. Zacovic in holding the length of vine cut by Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents East County. “Not only do the generations interact, our youngest ones get to know about gardening and teamwork and about healthy eating. With today’s problems of childhood obesity and our kids not knowing where our foods come from – this is a very beautiful opportunity to address these issues.”
Supervisor Dianne Jacob cuts the vine held by Chancellor
Cindy Miles and Cuyamaca College president Mark Zacovic
Zacovic called the 11/2-year project a “collaborative vision” that served as an interdisciplinary learning opportunity for students enrolled in several college programs, including child development, ornamental horticulture, and surveying.
“It was really a wonderful synergy that has come together,” he said about the garden, which, when complete, will feature citrus and other fruit trees, a variety of vegetable and flower beds, vines with pumpkins and melons, ornamentals, herbs, and more. “Cuyamaca College has a strong reputation as a leader in sustainability and this garden is a perfect addition to this.”
Jacob hailed the garden as an example of the county’s commitment to intergenerational ties, starting back in 2001 when the Board of Supervisors first approved the hiring of an intergenerational program coordinator.
“The county was the first in the country to set an example with an intergenerational program,” she said. “There is lots to be learned from folks who have lived for a few years, and never before have our kids needed that kind of teaching as much as they do now.”
Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione said the garden carries an important message of a lifelong practice of health and wellness, noting that studies have shown that three lifestyle choices – poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking – have contributed to the more than 60 percent of the deaths in East County.
“There is great value in the lessons being taught to these children about the importance of making healthy choices,” he said. “Many of these children will back to their families and begin having these conversations.”
Macchione said when the county launched a program to improve the health of its residents, a decision was made to go out to the communities and nurture efforts such as Cuyamaca College’s Intergenerational Garden.
“Projects like this make  a good investment,” he said. “It’s communities and government working together to make ourselves healthier and smarter.”
In addition to the young gardeners and their senior citizen partners, others joining in on the official launching were community partners and vendors who have donated time and materials:  the California Conservation Corps, Dixieline/ProBuild; HydroScape, A.D.D. Landscaping, The Fence Doctor, Xcel Remodeling, Inc., La Mesa landscape architect George Mercer and others.