Oakland residents hoping to win contest for community garden funding

WEST OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The 126th Tournament of Roses Parade takes place New Year's Day and can be seen right here on ABC7.

Among those watching will be a number of Oakland residents cheering on two city officials riding a float and searching for votes to Green Community Gardens.

It's not much to look at -- some mounds of once-cultivated earth, some wilted plants and the few bins that haven't disappeared.

The project for the Lowell Park Family Market Farm got off the ground last year. Laverne Bell said the idea was to grow crops for her neighborhood in West Oakland, which has limited access to fresh, affordable produce.

"It's better for us to come out and grow our own fruits and vegetables, where it makes us healthy also," Bell said.

That goal could become a reality if Oakland wins a $40,000 grant from Miracle-Gro.

The company is sponsoring a contest among four community gardens -- Detroit, New York City, Orlando and Oakland.

Representatives from each city will ride on the Miracle-Gro float in the Rose Parade, hoping to capture the most votes on social media.

Community activists have tried to turn this into a garden for young and old. The money would further that dream and go beyond.

"We're going to have a family market farm where students and families come together and harvest the food that they grow here, and it'll also be available on a sliding scale to community members," Oakland Parks and Recreation's Mark Hall said.

Hall wrote the grant request and if Oakland wins, there will be more outreach to the neighbors to get them involved so that this garden thrives like others in the city.

"What we've learned is once the community takes ownership of their parks and gardens, they protect them," Oakland Parks and Recreation's Frederick Morris said.

The Rose Parade is Thursday and the garden contest has already begun. Voting ends February 9.

Click here to cast your vote.
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