A Morning Full of Surprises

Barbara: I was looking forward to this past Saturday morning ever since I read that the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners would be presenting a fall vegetable workshop at the Farm and Food Lab in the Great Park. Irvine is something of a wasteland when it comes to these sorts of things, so the fact that there was a workshop like this surprised me.

The second surprise was the Farm and Food Lab. I was truly amazed when I laid eyes on it. I’d heard that there was something agricultural happening in Orange County’s Great Park, but more than this I did not know. Well, turns out that there’s a not-quite-year-old, 2-acre farm that has produced more than 6 tons of organic row crops that have been donated to local food banks!

This 2-acre plot will be substantially expanded in the coming months.

And next to this very productive field are beautiful raised beds brimming with fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, each planted in keeping with a theme — a pizza garden, fruit salad garden, a Native American garden, etc.

Orange County gardeners explore the Food and Farm Lab.

In the midst of this delightful setting the Park crew set up a large tent for the lecture. And that brings us to the next, and perhaps biggest, surprise. The tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the people that showed up! In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have imagined that more than 20 people or so would come, but there were at least triple that number. Bring me my smelling salts!

Kay Havens, a certified Master Gardener, gave a great presentation. It was informative, funny and full of tips for growing fall crops in containers and small gardens. Afterward, I spoke to Tom Larson, chief landscape and farming consultant, who told me that there are plans for a much larger farm and a community garden.

Things are looking up in OC, people! If you’ve lived in Orange County for as long as I have, you too would be pinching yourself to make sure this wasn’t a dream. I think I’ll stick around to see what happens next!

P.S. There are four more workshops scheduled. See the Great Park site for more information. And come to the next one — you won’t be disappointed.

6 thoughts on “A Morning Full of Surprises

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  1. I live in South Pasadena and can understand your thrill at finding this in OC. Wish we’d get something as forward-looking here. Perhaps OC will give us the bug!

  2. Here is the schedule of spring 2010 garden workshops at the OC Great Park —

    Grow It Now!
    Plant What You and Your Family Like to Eat!
    Spring Garden Workshops at Great Park Farm and Food Lab

    IRVINE – Ready to dig in the garden again? The Orange County Great Park launches its spring 2010 Garden Workshop series with five exciting classes to show you how to cultivate a garden in your backyard. Whether you are a novice or a pro, you will enjoy learning the “A to Z’s” of growing tomatoes, the cool tools you’ll need to garden and the varieties of fruit trees suitable for backyard growing. The five free Saturday morning workshops are from 10 a.m. to Noon, March 13th through May 15th.

    “We are excited to kick off our 2010 spring garden workshop series,” said Larry Agran, Chair, Orange County Great Park Corporation. “While we are preparing to open community gardens, we are educating the community on gardening.”

    The Orange County Great Park Garden Workshop Series, led by the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County, is part of a program designed to introduce community members to the Farm and Food Lab, where they can learn about sustainable home gardening practices for a healthy lifestyle.

    Garden Workshops at the Great Park Food and Farm Lab (all workshops 10 a.m.-Noon):

    Grow it NOW: Warm Season Vegetables — Saturday, March 13
    Ready to dig in the garden again? Now is the time to plant warm season vegetables to feed your family over the summer months. The Master Gardeners will give you the information you need to choose your crops so that you can follow the #1 rule: plant what you and your family like to eat! Yum!

    Tomato Time — Saturday, April 10
    You could plant from dawn to dusk and still not plant every variety of tomato! Whether you are a novice or a pro, you’ll enjoy learning about tomatoes: the many varieties, their culture, diseases and pests, growing in the ground vs. growing in containers – and finally, how to use them. Come hear the Master Gardeners on the “A to Z” about tomatoes.

    The Backyard Orchard — Saturday, April 17
    Not enough room in your backyard for an orchard? With a little planning and know-how, it could happen. Learn about the varieties of fruit trees suitable for backyard growing and how to plant and care for them. The Master Gardeners will provide tips for fruit trees in small gardens. Valuable information…ripe for picking!

    Tool Time — Saturday, May 1
    Okay, okay – there are some trusty standby tools that you need in your garden. And then, there are the cool tools – the ones that take your breath away, that you don’t want to live without, that you see in your dreams. The Master Gardeners will discuss and demonstrate tools for home gardens. Be there!

    Smart Gardening — Saturday, May 15
    What does it take to be a Smart Gardener? Knowledge – and application of that knowledge – about irrigation, soil care, pest control, energy and wildlife. Sound complicated? The Master Gardeners will simplify it as they provide tips for you to save time, money and create a healthier garden. If you want to be a Smart Gardener, attend this workshop.

    Garden Workshops will be held at the Orange County Great Park Preview Park in the Farm & Food Lab. The Orange County Great Park is located off the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon in Irvine. For more information, please visit to http://www.ocgp.org or call 949-724-7420.


    1. Hi Maryann — thanks for the info. I posted it on the front page earlier this week in the sidebar and will blog about it this morning, but it can’t hurt to have it here as well. Barbara

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