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UC President Napolitano Visits San Diego Community Garden

Photo caption: Janet Napalitano plants a tree with community members in the Mountain View ne...

Photo credit: Matthew Bowler

Janet Napalitano plants a tree with community members in the Mountain View neighborhood of San Diego, March 12, 2015.

Janet Napolitano was in San Diego Thursday to visit a community garden that serves as a research center, pollution remover and community center.

University of California President Janet Napolitano was in San Diego Thursday to visit a community garden that serves as a research center, pollution remover and community center.

The Ocean View Growing Grounds is situated in the southeastern San Diego neighborhood of Mountain View. The garden sits on a 20,000-square-foot lot that not long ago had lead and arsenic in the soil.

Now, because of work by UC San Diego’s Urban Studies and Planning Program, not only is the land a vegetable garden but it's a place for the community to come together.

Undergraduate and graduate students helped make the garden happen by providing plant and soil testing technologies, mapping, visualization, site assessment and scenario planning tools, according to UC San Diego.

The UC San Diego neighborhood garden project is one part of a larger University of California effort called the Global Food Initiative.

“Our starting blocks for this initiative are out 10 campuses,” Napolitano said. “That power of 10-plus makes UC well poised to take on this challenge.”

Creating a community garden is more than it may appear on first blush, Napolitano said.

“You know people may say ‘ah its easy, you go out and plant some stuff.’ It's a lot more involved than that,” Napolitano said. “Particularly if you want it to be something that the community needs, that the community ultimately operates and that produces really nutritious healthy food for people.”

Keith Pezzoli, lecturer of the Urban Studies and Planning Program, said eating home-grown vegetables can be dangerous if gardeners are confused about toxicity of the land.

“People need to be eating healthy, but when people are growing food on land that might be contaminated, they really don’t have a lot of science to help them understand ‘Am I getting exposed to lead? Is there something in my food that’s dangerous?’" Pezzoli said. "So we are bringing the university science into that equation and helping people feel safe about growing food on land like this."

Researchers point out there are at least 800 more vacant lots like this in San Diego that could be turned into community gardens.

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