About usPublicationsInitiativesFundsGrantsGivingPlanned GivingICF-Xchange
Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center - Overview

Organic Garden

Community Meeting at the Center

Mission & Vision:
The Mission of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is to connect and motivate students and families from diverse backgrounds through organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education, empowering them to be healthy and active citizens. Our Vision is to reconnect students and families to the natural environment through food, education and community engagement.

Who We Are:
Olivewood Gardens is an urban, organic garden located in National City, California. The goal is to educate students, teachers, families, and volunteers to be healthy and active citizens. Olivewood Gardens is a destination for children from the surrounding urban community to explore connections between plants and history, science, art, literature, math, and nutrition where learning is centered within the context of an organic garden. Organic produce is grown and harvested for nutrition classes, cooking demonstrations, and workshops.

Organization Description and History:
Olivewood Gardens is a community and school garden resource facility owned by the International Community Foundation Center (ICFC), a 501(c)3 with a unique 6.85 acre property located in National City, California, whose mission is to engage, grow, and promote healthy communities and dialogue through civic engagement and philanthropy in the San Diego-Baja California border region. The house, gardens, and property were donated to the ICFC by the Walton family in 2008.
  • Host 5000 student and family visits each year.
  • Complete garden site preparation and construction for educational programs.
  • Recruit a community based advisory committee and establish volunteer programs.
  • Promote policy change in the areas of school meals and physical activity.
  • Introduce locally grown fresh produce into schools.
  • Promote healthy eating not just at school, but at home.
  • Promote community based awareness and civic engagement about land use policies that encourage healthy eating and active living through community gardens and urban farms.
Statement of Need:

Our nation’s physical and environmental health is at risk. A growing body of research shows positive links between our personal health and our connection to nature. However, many children now live in apartments with little opportunity to connect with nature, leading to what local writer Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”. It is well documented that among the children and youth suffering from the greatest nature deficit disorder are those living in poverty. Additionally, children and families are consuming highly processed, nutritionally poor foods at a higher rate than ever. According to Michael Pollan, Americans eat a fifth of their meals in their cars and feed fully a third of its children at fast food outlets every day. Olivewood Gardens is surrounded by a socioeconomically disadvantaged community with one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the state of California. According to San Diego County’s Department of Health & Human Services, the rate of diabetes hospitalization and mortality is 2.3 times greater in National City than the County average.

What We Have Accomplished:

Olivewood Gardens features small thematic gardens, such as a salsa garden, pizza garden, and a “Three Sisters” garden. Children and community actively engage in the production of organic fruit and vegetables. Olivewood Gardens has already established a strong partnership with teachers, several principals and National School District (NSD). Seed Funding from The California Endowment allowed for a full-time garden program manager to be hired.

Olivewood Gardens began its educational program February 2010. Partnering with National School District (NSD) and Olivewood Elementary, more than 1300 student visits were completed from February to July 2010. Participating students walk the ½ mile from school to the gardens. Each field trip consists of three rotations; a gardening activity, a nutrition activity, and a cooking activity. Along with the 2 hour field trips students received 45 minute in class lessons that were California Science Standards based. This amounts to over 3,000 instructional hours for students in National City. An additional 4000 field trips are scheduled to begin October 2010.

Cox Communications in partnership with the Good Food Gardens has selected Olivewood Gardens for their Good Food Garden program which will be donated to Olivewood Elementary.

The Solana Center donated over a thousand dollars worth of recycling bins for paper, plastic, and composting as well as gave recycling demonstrations to our students who participated in summer school.

As of March 2010, Chef Julie Darling, Olivewood’s volunteer chef coordinator, has recruited over forty local chefs to donate their time for cooking classes with NSD students. Because of her volunteer work with Olivewood Gardens, Chef Julie was invited to the White House to be a part of the launch of Michelle Obama's new initiative

Another significant accomplishment is that the San Diego Junior League has chosen Olivewood Gardens as their Kids in the Kitchen program for the 2010/2011 year. The Junior League will sponsor a series of Saturday morning workshops for families to include gardening, cooking and educational workshops in health and the environment that will feature presentations from environmentalists, biologists, pediatricians, dieticians, nutritionists, and chefs.

Additionally, high school students from the Elementary Institute of Science’s (EIS) Commission on Science that Matters will become a part of the program as of October 2010. EIS students will mentor the younger students and raise awareness for healthier lifestyles and advocate for living healthy.

Funding Needs:
  • $100,000 Programmatic: includes program staff, educational and gardening materials, and field trip transportation.
  • $95,000 Complete Construction and Signage
Program Impact:

Olivewood Gardens provides standards-based nutrition education, lessons in sustainable agriculture, and environmental stewardship to students attending school in southern San Diego County, as well as to local community residents. There are 6,000 elementary aged children served by National School District. By participating, children will consistently receive important nutrition education in the context of a garden-based learning environment. As demonstrated at other garden-based learning facilities throughout the state, such experiences could significantly increase children’s knowledge of, preference for, and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, even into adulthood. By practicing positive nutritional choices over the long term, local children and community members may reduce their risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Future programs may include a high school internship program, a community college program, and intergenerational mentoring program, teacher trainings, and Parent Teacher Organization workshops.