Volunteering & Giving
June 26, 2014

Planting seeds — and change — in a California community garden

Quesada Gardens was started as a way to breathe new life into a San Francisco community, and bring neighbors together. It has achieved that — and more.

Small is Huge

In an effort to breathe new life into San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, community residents Annette Smith and Karl Paige started the Quesada Gardens Initiative in 2002 by planting flowers and vegetables, and other residents soon joined in.

Now a cluster of community gardens and art projects, “Quesada Gardens remains a luscious chaos of community with flowers and food growing,” says Jeffrey Betcher, co-founder and executive director.

The gardening project catalyzed a transformation, creating a breeding ground for public art pieces, events, and gathering spaces.

“Our goal is to bring people together across the lines that usually divide us,” says Jeffrey. “We do that by focusing on the good things happening in our community. We want everyone in the neighborhood to know their neighbors. If we accomplish that, we believe we will have made a tremendous difference in the life of our community.”

The success of the initiative can largely be attributed to it reflecting the interests of the community. Resident Angela Goebels says, “We can shape the community here, whereas other communities are shaped for us.”

Early on, Wells Fargo played a role in helping the neighborhood become a safer, greener, and more well-respected place.

Wells Fargo has contributed to multiple projects such as the Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden, which slowed traffic and became the neighborhood’s largest generator of healthy fruits and vegetables. Another Quesada Gardens Initiative project that Wells Fargo supported, the Bayview Footprints Network of Community Building Groups, has created an online communication hub for the neighborhood to share stories and provide resources.

In addition to improving the area’s aesthetic, Jeffrey says the initiative has encouraged better nutrition and physical activity, and reduced transportation-related carbon emissions by growing fruits and vegetables locally. But the real accomplishment is building social cohesion in the process.

What began as a small effort to beautify a challenged place has led to a community-wide transformation — a small task with profound impact. By enlisting the help of other local residents and hosting groups for service-learning events, Quesada Gardens has enabled thousands of people to contribute to the space and leave their mark in a positive and constructive way.

Resident Carla Eagleton says, “I still feel like I’m free here. At Quesada Gardens, we can still define our own community. We include everyone. Everyone has a say. We all have respect for one another, and everything we do is transparent.”

Jeffrey says, “The Quesada Gardens Initiative encourages everyone to get involved in the life of their community. Strengthening the social environment is often the missing piece in improving the physical environment. In the Bayview neighborhood, residents know from experience how community building can transform the quality of day to day living.”