If you've missed the farmers market this week, do not despair. A you-pick garden on the westside is another place to get your local organic produce before the dinner guests arrive, hungry and expectant. Throw a beautiful drive into the transaction and the ulcer of regret that appeared when you missed the market is just a distant memory.
The HGP's garden is on the picturesque westside of Santa Cruz, at the edge of town where the fields begin to meet the ocean and Highway 1 takes off towards San Francisco. The three-acre plot on Shaffer Road is extremely well kept, abundant, and as pleasant as a garden can be.
Patch dropped in on the garden on a recent afternoon and found volunteer Don Lessard out in the fields. Lessard, who has been working in the garden for several years now, explained what was growing in each row and the ways you can eat it. For two dollars, Lessard sent me on my way with a hefty bunch of kale: dwarf blue, red russian, and a few others, plus two kinds of chard, arugula and arugula flowers (they taste peppery and sweet).
Yes, you have to pick your own, but really, it's easier than it sounds. Just remember to bring a bag to carry your vegetables.
Plus, your dollar goes to the Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz's unique program that provides homeless individuals with a safe community and the opportunity to learn how to farm and cook organic food, create beautiful goods from dried flowers, and reinsert themselves into the working world with more self esteem than they had when they began.
The garden is also a good spot for bird enthusiasts.
"We get people coming out just after dawn to see the birds here," said Lessard. Blue herons and egrets are a common site at the garden.
"Yesterday I saw a heron drop out of the sky, pluck a gopher out of the garden, and fly off with it," said Lessard.
Any gardener who has watched entire beds disappear to a gopher will enjoy that story.
Visitors are welcome at the garden from dawn until dusk. The farm stand is open from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., seven days a week. Don't forget a bag!
The HGP garden is on Shaffer Road, between Hwy 1 and Delaware Ave, near the Long Marine Lab and Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.