San Francisco's Presidio garden donates produce to COVID-19 essential workers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's harvest time at a secluded garden that even many close neighbors have never seen. Tucked away in a corner of San Francisco's Presidio, the site traces its roots back more than a century.

"It was a large glass greenhouse dating back to 1915 and it had a coal stove," says Presidio garden coordinator Jean Koch.

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The garden is actually just one of eight planting spaces that coordinator Jean Koch manages on the former Army Post. The raised vegetable beds and wooden trellis offer residents a chance to grow their own fresh produce. And over time Koch has also expanded the harvest, well beyond the garden's tiny borders.

"There's lettuce, chard, kale fava beans, peas, carrots, radishes, onions. And part of what I've been doing that past couple years is growing produce for our restaurants and volunteer program," she adds.

Homegrown vegetables and produce, on the menu, until now. Restaurants in the Presidio, like elsewhere, have been shut down by the COVID-19 shelter-in-place. So what to do with the spring harvest?

The garden program is turning its attention and goodwill to a small army of essential employees that are keeping the Presidio safe and running during the crisis. Doing everything from trimming trees to keeping the water running.

"We're the ones who keep it running, the high-voltage guys are here, the water treatment guys are here and the building maintenance people," says Margaret Loo, who's also been designated an essential worker at the Presidio.

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And now, as a thank you for that hard work, they're being rewarded with a virtual farmer's market. Koch is distributing the harvest to essential workers and garden volunteers. Not letting a single green go to waste. And for many, it's a chance to stretch their culinary legs, at a time when fresh produce is at a premium.

"I've just been making stir-fried greens with the Swiss chard," said one happy produce recipient.

"I really like it with eggs, in quiche, that's tasty," added another.

The produce is free for the workers braving the crisis. The sentiment and appreciation it represents may be harder to put a price tag on.

"We're really grateful to the garden program and their generosity," said one recipient through her black, protective face mask.

Koch returned the feeling.

"It feels great to be able to support our community and essential workers in a small way, but a way I think people really appreciate," Koch said. "Being hard to get out to the grocery store, it's nice that we've got produce that we're growing in our own backyard."

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