Inside Bay Area – by Janet Levaux Correspondent
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ALAMEDA — Alameda Backyard Growers has a lot to celebrate Sunday, when it commemorates its three-year anniversary at the Alameda Main Library with a special three-hour event.
The group draws 50 or more guests to its events and has an email list of more than 400 individuals.
It gave more than 2,050 pounds of locally grown fruit to the Alameda Food Bank in 2012, up from 845 pounds in 2011.
In addition, the gardening collective won first place in its category at Alameda’s Fourth of July Parade last year. It also has formed a board and is on its way to becoming a nonprofit corporation.
“It’s been about people connecting with people, one veggie at a time,” said Amanda Bruemmer, who co-founded the group in early 2010 with fellow Alamedan Janice Edwards. “Janice and I thought, ‘There’s a lot of land around, food being grown and people in need of it.’ That’s what made this blossom.”
The two women say that thanks to a core group of about 30 members, Alameda Backyard Growers has been able to spread the word -and the produce. The group’s growing popularity prompted it to move its gatherings from High Street Station to Rhythmix Cultural Works about a year or so ago.
Edwards, an East Coast native who moved to the Island nearly 10 years ago, began gardening several years back with friends and neighbors.
“I brought them to our first meeting,” she said.
For her part, Bruemmer — who was raised in Scotland — got interested in gardening when she and her husband re-did their back yard.
“We worked with Ploughshares Nursery … and found out what we needed to do to have a Bay-friendly garden at home,” she said.
Thanks to the efforts of the co-founders and other members, Alameda Backyard Growers now has more than 20 local partners, including Ploughshares, Alameda County Master Gardeners, Project LEAF (Local Edible Alameda Farm), Alameda Backyard Chickens, Alameda Backyard Beekeepers and Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA).
Over the past three years, strong relationships have developed between the group’s members.
“It’s been great to watch the friendships grow” as people share gardening plots, Edwards said. “And there have been couples who have met through the group, too.”
In addition to sharing land and donating produce, many members also have given their professional skills to Alameda Backyard Growers. Edwards, for instance, is a grants-program administrator, while Bruemmer is a sales trainer.
“We both were able to bring skills to this, so we could train, support and organize community building,” Bruemmer said.
At Sunday’s event, Alameda Backyard Gardeners will be showing a film, “The Economics of Happiness,” sharing gardening information and other materials, and offering refreshments.
“We would be thrilled for everyone to attend. Our philosophy is about access for all,” Edwards said.