Huerta del Valle is more than a space for growing food. Beyond being a garden, it functions to bring people together, creating a safe space for discussions, empowerment, and community building. November's monthly meeting began by asking the question, share a time in which you had to fight for your rights; how did you stand up for yourself and what happened in the end? Each person in the circle took turns recounting their story, building a sense of trust, understanding, and support with each word. The meeting continued by featuring Ruben Bambrilla of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He led a workshop for the community members at HdV about how to best take advantage of the resources the city has to offer. He began by going over the names and roles of the people on city council, the mayor, and the community service director. He reminded each person of their rights and strategies for change making within their communities. Bambrilla gave advice on how best to interact with city council members. He discussed these tools in the context of the garden, such as receiving city funding. However, much of his workshop translated to many of the issues people had discussed previously. The workshop aimed to eliminate the sense of powerlessness and provide concrete strategies for voicing concerns. Bambrilla sparked discussion that continued during a delicious dinner of squash, tortillas, beans, potatoes, and a refreshing cucumber water. Even after the sun set, everyone stayed to talk about how to use the strategies Bambrilla shared without compromising their own self-respect. People offered alternate ways of change making, discussing the strengths and draw backs of each.
As the discussion wound down, Maria Alonso, a leader at the garden, reminded everyone about a gathering at the Mexican Consulate in LA later that week to protest the horrendous actions against 43 students in Ayotzinapa. She offered the garden as a meeting place before going to the event as a group. Many people expressed interest in attending and planned to go together. Throughout the meeting, the garden opened up as a space for sharing personal experiences, discussing strategies for empowerment, and community organizing. Beyond growing food, Huerta del Valle works hard to grow relationships and community.