By Dave Condal
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017
Local couple talk about the success of Oceano Community Tower Garden and Heathly Living Learning Center.
I recently had the privilege of talking with Glenn & Angie Giese of Oceano, CA the driving fource behind the Oceano Community Tower Garden and Healthy Living Learning Center. It was a beautiul sunny Friday morning and I found myself in the middle of a green oasis just ten feet away from HWY 1, with birds singing, butterfly’s fluttering, bees buzzing, and 40 six foot towers covered in every type of green produce that I could think of, plus twenty more I could not name. As I walked through the Tower Garden I could see a group of six kids ages from 8 to 12 standing around a large work table 4′ by 20′, listen to two adults talking about planting seeds in seedling trays. This turned out to be the couple I came to interview. As I walked up to introduce myself I was suddenly aware of the sound of what I thought was a babbling brook but instead I soon found out it was actually the Tower Gardens going into their watering cycle.
Glenn Giese 59, is a man of 5’8″ tall a slim 160 lbs , blue eyes that shine and a smile that you just can’t help but return. His wife Angie 60, just over 5′ and just under 100lbs who’s laughter makes anyone close by just want Join in on what ever is going on, welcomed me into their group.
Dave. Glenn how did this community garden get started?
Glenn. Well I would have to say it started back in Sept of 2015 when I started to work with a local teacher Connie Sparks from the Arroyo Grande High School where she teaches Ag courses. She was talking about finding ways to get her students more involved in her class room and she was kicking around some ideas with me. I had brought up the idea of using a Tower Garden in her classroom. The company I work with the Juice Plus+ Company had recently developed a classroom course program with the Buck Institute For Education. I took her to see Steven Ritz from the Green Bronx Machine program who also uses Tower Gardens when he was on a speaking trip in Santa Barbara. After seeing Steven Ritz Connie was in and we started the program on Jan 4, 2016. The student really got involved and got inspired.
Dave. I hear more than the High School got involved.
Glenn. Yes, that right. The success at the High School motivated me to work with the local Boys and Girls Club. The Juice Plus+ Company had set up a grant program to donate a Tower Garden to Boy and Girls Clubs across the country. On May 5, 2016 I helped our local club apply for the grant, and worked with them to run the program.
Dave. How did that work out?
Glenn. I was so amazed how the kids responded to growing their own food. They were so excited to learn how a little seed can turn into a salad that they can eat. Will I new that one Tower Garden was not going to be enough, and working with the kids I new that the need for healthy food was in disparate need in our community with all the health issue our kids are facing these days due to a diet of processed foods. So it was time for me to step up and make a difference.
Dave. So how were you able to pay for all this?
Glenn. Well on Sept 1, 2016 made a commitment to donate my Club bonus cheeks from my Juice Plus+ Business and set up the Glenn & Angie Giese Healthy Living Foundation to buy more Tower Gardens. I worked with the local community board and took over the old community garden which was not being used and was only growing weeds. I also teamed up with Connie Sparks at the High School and her students now get class credit for teaching what they learned in their classroom to the residents of Oceano in this community Tower Garden. I was also able to get Cal Poly to send college students down here to teach classes on nutrition and healthy cooking tying in with their Learn By Doing philosophy.
Dave. How many families use this garden?
Angie. As of May 12, 2017 there are 30 Families actively working in the Community Tower Garden. This has been such a blessing for us, because my father was a farmer here in Oceano, and seeing how we our continuing his legacy and making a impact on our community now and into the future is fantastic.
Glenn. It seems the more we give the more we get, today Oceano……. Tomorrow well how about your community Dave?
Dave. That sounded great to me for I can sure use more greens in my life as I plucked leaf of Swiss Chad off one of Tower Gardens and stuffed it into my mouth.