Students fundraise, design addition for community garden

By Jeline Abutin

Using their academic skill sets to create new structures for a flourishing community garden located in Ontario, California, three Cal Poly Pomona architecture students have created an online fundraiser to help raise money to build a community and educational space.

“We’re so thrilled and thankful to have been able to work with the Cal Poly Pomona students,” said Arthur Levine, Huerta Del Valle Project Manager. “It’s something that many nonprofits or community organizations could benefit from. Any student who wants to put their theory into practice should really look into how they can support these organizations.”

Huerta Del Valle is an Ontario-based community garden that provides low-income individuals and families the opportunity to grow, harvest and consume their own organic crops for $10 a year, according to the fundraiser’s online page.

The community garden started in 2010 through the collaboration efforts of the city of Ontario and Pitzer College.

“One of the biggest issues that is most important to people is food and nutrition,” said Levine. “People are getting sick because they can’t eat really good food. It’s not available, it’s not affordable and so people are getting sick. The community garden started in order to address those issues.”

With the goal of strengthening and further developing the community garden, fourth-year architecture students Hana Lemseffer, Necils Lopez and Kirill Volchinskiy designed and worked on various structures for the community garden. The team of students has also created a Kickstarter, a crowd funding online platform, to help raise enough funds for the building process of a playhouse and kitchen structure.

“It was a bit stressful at times to be honest,” said Lopez. “It was a lot pressure because we were actually talking to city planners and having to do corrections. We had to keep that going because if not the project could potentially fall dead and be forgotten. It was definitely a slice of real life.”

Built sustainably, the playhouse and kitchen structure will be constructed out of the steel of two shipping containers with the addition of rotating shading panels that will protect the structure from heavy rains as well as ventilate and cool the space, according to the project’s Kickstarter.

“Kickstarter is all about everybody giving a little,” said Levine. “That’s the way it works. That’s the idea. It’s about the grassroots being able to fund itself as oppose to always going to large corporations to get one chunk of money. You work with the community to get whatever little bit they have to support the cause. You can give one dollar, five dollars. The point is to just do it. Give something and try to get five or 10 other people to give something and spread it.”

Funding, however, has been difficult for the team of students despite using the online platform.

“One of the challenges is crowd funding,” said Volchinskiy. “It’s a marathon. It’s hard to compete on Kickstarter with a community project when the page is filled with gadgets and very cool products. . . . When you are selling an idea, even if it’s an idea which can profoundly lift up a community, it’s still hard to compete with a product. Most of the donations have come from our friends, friends of the garden and friends of friends.”

The team of students also encountered difficulties raising funds for engineering services for other structures in the community garden.

“I paid $500 to begin the engineering of the shade structure,” said Volchinskiy. “I think it was the right thing to do. At the time, the design was not so certain and paying for engineering seemed like a liability for the community. It took longer than expected, but the community paid $1,000 to finish it.”

Besides trouble with finances, balancing school and working on the project was not an easy task for the students.

“It was tough,” said Lopez. “I definitely had a hard time keeping up with other classes. Not only did I have to produce work for school but for the community garden. It was hard. My grades definitely suffered, but it was totally worth it.”

The students’ efforts and passion did not go unnoticed, according to Levine.

“The students have done so much work, hundreds if not thousands of hours of work,” said Levine. “They’ve done a really good job. It’s not just a design project; it’s something we want to see in reality.”

The fundraiser has a pledge goal of $17,000. As of Friday, Jan. 8, the Kickstarter has a total of $3,600 from 65 backers with 24 days to go.

For more information or to donate to the Kickstarter, visit:

Community garden

Courtesy of Kickstarter

Community garden

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