Meet Trina Calderon
I met the garden’s treasurer and former coordinator of the Manzanita Community Garden, Trina Calderon, on a golden weekday evening and she leads me up the garden, stopping us often to enjoy the sights and scents emanating from vegetation growing out of the dozen or so terraced garden plots. The planters, which are made of weathered steel, are a gift from a local company and enhance the bold, modern aesthetic of the garden. The garden is bisected by a steep staircase painted in alternating shades of yellow and red.
Pedestrians file up and down the stairs during my visit. Illegal dumping and littering are still issues in this corner, but the gardeners aren’t deterred. The garden’s origins are blessed with a number of early supporters, the most notable being our current Mayor, then-City Councilmember Eric Garcetti. His district office has made itself a resource to the garden on a few occasions, including bringing in City staff to repair damages caused by a fallen street tree, which toppled over during a storm.
Trina, who has cultivated her plot for eight years, is pleased with the supplemental vegetables and herbs her plot brings to her kitchen. As a Master Gardener, she loves supporting her fellow gardeners and encourages them to try to grow a new plant each season; many seemed to have taken her advice to heart. We notice blueberries, a papaya and even a mango tree, with one lone but resilient fruit hanging from its branches.
Trina is optimistic about the future of this garden, and hopes that, despite its size limitations, the garden can be a place for community gathering and workshops, and attract families and children committed to working with the soil and growing their own food. “Everyone wants to grow stuff,” she remarks, they just need to build the confidence to do so. And a community garden, like this small but mighty one on Manzanita Street, is the perfect place to start!