In 2017, Bianca Bonilla, a passionate botanist, was working with a local organization to grow food and provide farm to preschool education. When the small piece of farmland in inland Oceanside was relinquished, Bonilla was motivated to find a way to carry on the space and in 2018, the nonprofit Botanical Community Development Initiatives and Community Roots Farm were born.
In the beginning, it wasn’t clear if this venture would be possible. The water bills alone were daunting but Bonilla was determined and did everything she could think of to get her mission off the ground—including going door to door at restaurants with farm-fresh produce ready to sell direct.
The responses were mixed but Bonilla remembers one chef in particular for his enthusiasm and support: chef Davin Waite at Wrench and Rodent. It made clear sense when Jessica and Davin Waite approached Bonilla about helping them start The Plot Garden Project a few years later. Bonilla and team at her plant-based service business, Radicle Botanical, converted the concrete space into the Plot Garden Project. Radicle Botanical, currently manages the garden and offers Bonilla's services as a field biologist, farmer, plants person, and consultant to additional clients and projects.
“A radicle is the root that comes out of a seed—the first part of the plant that comes out of the seed when it germinates,” Bonilla says about the play on words in her business name.
Bonilla describes her work as cultivating the intersection between people and plants and sees her role as being a conduit for weaving these relationships. Growing nutrient-dense food and reminding people of their ancestral connection to the earth is an important part of her mission and is immensely apparent in her work with the community. “We hope that more restaurants do something like this,” Bonilla says about The Plot Garden Project. “There are a lot of spaces within our landscapes and buildings that can be used—it doesn’t have to be huge—restaurants can grow their own food.”
You can be a part of this process by learning to grow food at home. Here are some tips from Bonilla for your fall garden.
Save seeds from your summer crops. Avoid saving seeds from hybrid plants. For some crops, if you had more than one variety growing at one time, you may see the result of their mixing when you plant the seed again next season. Saving seeds is an important action toward food sovereignty and should be a part of the plan for every garden. Label your seeds, share them, and save some to plant next year. Look for a local seed swap near you!
Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, onions, cilantro, peas, kale, swiss chard, and turnips are great options. If purchasing seedlings, try to buy from local nurseries and avoid chain retailers. You are more likely to find plants and seeds that are of greater quality, in season, locally adapted, and didn’t have to travel far to get here. The practice of sourcing local seeds and plants can be a great way to support local businesses and nonprofits.
Botanical Community Development Initiatives is a 501(c)3 organization founded in March 2018. Primary initiatives include a Farm to Family program, the Greening Spaces program, the Seed to Preschool program, the Plant Lab, and a Community Composting program.
Read more about The Plot Garden Project, an urban garden Bonilla is growing with Jessica Waite that is part of The Plot Restaurant. Featured in our fall 2022 issue, the small garden helps to supply 20–30% of the produce used at this truly plant-based and eco-minded Oceanside restaurant.