Watsonville Church closes popular community garden over alleged safety concerns

Farmworker families who lease space for a community garden at All Saints-Cristo Rey Episcopal Church in Watsonville say their lease for their one-acre site was recently terminated. They say they are getting mixed messages from the church as to whether or not the garden will continue at all. Church says it has no plans to evict garden tenants; they try to make the gardening site safer. “I plant myself in my gardens and here we plant and enjoy everything we grow,” said Catarino Peña. Peña is one of 46 families that are part of Tierras Milperas gardening. community group. They plant and grow organic fruits and vegetables and once a month they get together and share their harvest. “We are an organization where everyone is united,” Peña said. The lease was void. Members of Tierra Milperas interpreted this as an expulsion. In a statement, Bishop Lucinda Ashby of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real wrote, “The gardeners have not been evicted, but the lease with Tierras Milperas is being terminated.” The church said the lease was terminated due to an increase in crime. Bishop Ashby said surrounding neighbors have frequently called the police due to suspicious activity on the property. The priest in charge of All Saints, the Reverend Lawrence Robles, said they do. I don’t know who owns the property or who is gardening. “It is very sad for us to learn that we are somehow connected to negative information,” said Tierras Milperas member Estaban Ortiz. Carmen Cortez, who is also A Tierras Milperas MP added, “There is nothing to do with crime here. What we focus on here is growing food and developing a strong community at our celebrant assembly meeting. It’s from the youngest to the oldest.’A meeting to discuss the status of the garden is scheduled for August 18 but the Tierras Milperas group says it has not received an invitation.’Since June 2, the Tierras Milperas members directly emailed requesting a meeting because we could not find answers with the Reverend and the Reverend asked us to speak with the Bishop,” Cortez said. The church also said it is impossible to guarantee the safety of those working in the garden under the current circumstances.

Farmworker families leasing space for a community garden at All Saints-Cristo Rey Episcopal Church in Watsonville say their lease for their one-acre site was recently terminated.

They say they are getting mixed messages from the church about whether or not the garden will continue.

Church says it has no plans to evict garden tenants; they try to make the gardening site safer.

“I plant myself in my gardens and here we plant and enjoy everything we grow,” said Catarino Peña.

Peña is one of 46 families who are part of the community gardening group Tierras Milperas.

They plant and grow organic fruits and vegetables and once a month they get together and share their harvest.

“We are an organization where everyone is united,” Peña said.

This did not appear to be the case when they were advised that their lease was void.

Members of Tierra Milperas interpreted this as an expulsion.

In a statement, Bishop Lucinda Ashby of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real wrote:

“The gardeners were not evicted, but the lease with Tierras Milperas is terminated.”

The church said the lease was terminated due to an increase in crime.

Bishop Ashby said calls to the police were made frequently by surrounding neighbors due to suspicious activity on the property.

The priest in charge of All Saints, the Reverend Lawrence Robles, said they did not know who owned the property or who gardened.

“It is very sad for us to learn that we are somehow connected to negative information,” said Tierras Milperas member Estaban Ortiz.

Carmen Cortez, who is also a member of A Tierras Milperas, added, “There’s nothing to do with crime here. What we’re focused on here is growing food and building community. strong in our assembly meeting that celebrates. It’s from the youngest to the oldest.’

A meeting to discuss the status of the garden is scheduled for August 18, but the Tierras Milperas group says it has not received an invitation.

“Since June 2, members of Tierras Milperas directly emailed requesting a meeting as we could not find answers with the Reverend and the Reverend asked us to speak with the Bishop,” said Cortez.

The church also said it was impossible to guarantee the safety of those working in the garden under the current circumstances.

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