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Open hillside becoming a community fruit tree and vegetable garden in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - You may have driven by Coronel St. and Loma Alta Dr. numerous times where a sloping hillside near a home is covered in seasonal grasses and some aging landscaping.

Layne Campbell who lives there saw the land was an area where much more could be done mainly for others.

He and his family decided to use their stimulus money, which they felt they really didn't need, to invest in a few fruit trees for the site.

"We were wondering what we could do with our stimulus check that would be a benefit to the community.  Spending some money at a local nursery,  planting a tree, why not?"

Eventually with area support, there may be multiple trees and garden fresh vegetables.

Initially he got the word out through the community page Nextdoor. With that the feedback resulted in people stopping by with some young trees that could be planted. "I've had a number of trees just dropped off in my driveway.  I don't even know who gave them," said Campbell. "They were just there and so I just planted them."

Already there are avocados and citrus trees. It's along a walking path between two neighborhoods, "where people that maybe don't have a fruit tree in their yard could pick. It seemed like a good idea," he said. It is across from the back side of McKinley school.

Campbell lives nearby and can be seen working the soil and planning the next site for a tree, veggies or an herb garden.

Campbell is not an expert on gardening or fruit trees. He is an entrepreneur who has a classic car rental business and is also writing a children's book.

When it comes to gardening, he is learning as he goes.

He recalls religious passages that talk of farmers who left some of their fields unpicked, so passersby can have some of the harvest if they were in need.

"You don't personally harvest the corner of your property. You leave the fruit there for whoever is walking by that might be  traveling or your neighbors  or just anyone can take the fruit. I think that is just a lovely concept," he said.

The young trees in the ground now are near an older one that was already on the property and will get some new nourishment. The newly planted trees will take time to produce fruit, and that's why Campbell will get vegetables started.

He plans to have a variety of tomatoes and fresh herbs to start and likely more very soon with suggestions and help from friends and neighbors.

Campbell believes many homeowners in Santa Barbara have land that could also be used in the same way and hopes to see that going forward.  

Already it is common in the area for residents to leave boxes of surplus fruit out in front of their homes for passersby.

  He says after a year of COVID and politics, some of those tensions can "seem less daunting, less significant, less impassable again. It comes down to a free avocado. Nobody disagrees with that!" 

Agriculture / Environment / House & Home / Lifestyle / Outdoors / Santa Barbara - South County / What's Right
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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