What if we could improve the environment, create new jobs and provide better quality food for our citizens at the same time? That’s what Valley Verde is doing for Santa Clara County residents and why I am a proud supporter. I had a chance to catch up with Valley Verde’s founder and learn about the latest progress in his goal to give everyone in the San Santa Clara County region access to healthy food.
Raul Lozano began Valley Verde with a vision to build healthy and resilient communities. He sought to teach low-income families how to grow their own edible gardens, which leads to food security and self-sufficiency. Today, the program includes 140 families and 10 locations across San Jose and Gilroy, including housing projects, senior facilities, rehab programs, women’s shelters and even corporations where people can grow their own culturally-appropriate, organic food.
In 2019, the program saw the fruition of the Super Jardineros, or super gardeners, who are building businesses with their newly acquired greenhouse skills. After a 3-year apprenticeship, the Super Jardineros receive a custom-built greenhouse that can grow up to 500 seedlings per winter and spring seasons in their own backyards.
Moreover, these seedlings provide vegetables for the Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, and Filipino populations. These communities desire ethnic seedlings that are not available in local nurseries, such as bok choy, chayote, epazote, and okra.
Super Jardineros have become micro-entrepreneurs, and their efforts produced over 1,000 seedlings to sell and share with the San Jose and Gilroy communities this year. The seedlings grown by the Super Jardineros will also provide 1/3 of the seedlings Valley Verde gives to its gardening program participants. Since Valley Verde and other people and organizations purchase the seedlings, the Super Jardineros receive new income and a sustainable social business model.
All of this means Valley Verde is building a circular economy for the Santa Clara County region, which brings environmental benefits, food sustainability and a healthier lifestyle for every citizen regardless of income, all supported by new social businesses.
Valley Verde is partnering with First Community Housing, a downtown San Jose development corporation, to grow gardens on the rooftop of one of their future developments. As more opportunities like this emerge, Valley Verde is literally planting the seeds (pun intended) for a green city.
I am so proud of Raul and all he’s accomplished with Valley Verde! I’m honored to be part of this organization. If you’d like to contribute by making a donation or even buying some seedlings, go to www.valleyverde.org. Be part of San Jose history!