The Rutherford Report—Local Nonprofit Branching Out

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“There's something about taking a plow and breaking new ground. It gives you energy.”

—Ken Kesey
Local Nonprofit Continues Branching Out

It’s not a stretch to say the Incredible Edible Community Garden is spreading like weeds.   

Since its founding in March 2009, the nonprofit has helped establish 10 community gardens throughout the valley. It also created three community fruit parks (including a fruit tree park in Montclair), two aquaponics gardens, a free fruit tree distribution program, and designed, funded, and planted Healing Grove Memorials in public parks with families of the 14 people killed in the Dec. 2, 2015, terrorist attack in San Bernardino.   

San Antonio Heights resident Mary Petit started the organization after moving to California from Florida to be closer to family in 2007.  

Not one to be a wallflower, Mary started looking for ways to get involved in her community. She joined the San Antonio Heights Association Board and began managing the community’s monthly produce exchange in a parking lot at Life Bible Fellowship Church.  

She also started looking for local community gardens.  

“I think I started gardening when I was three years old,” Mary said.   

She was surprised to find there weren’t any nearby, so she set out to start her own. She began passing out fliers in her neighborhood and soliciting donations from local businesses as well.   

She got a big boost when a reporter from the Daily Bulletin wrote an article about her nonprofit, and soon she was receiving multiple offers from property owners who wanted to host a garden.   

The group thought it had landed a site for the first garden in Upland, but nearby residents were opposed and the deal went south.  

In the meantime, San Antonio Heights resident Holly Wood called Mary to let her know she was picking up several hundred seedlings for the garden from a nursery in Indio.   

“I told her the whole thing fell through,” Mary said.   

Undeterred, Holly told Mary she got permission from the Pacific Christian Center in Upland to stage the young plants there. Mary also contacted her supporters to ask them to foster seedlings until she could secure a permanent site.   

Officials at the Pacific Christian Center asked Mary to submit a proposal to their Board of Directors, and a few weeks later, the Board cleared the way for the community garden.   

“All the gardeners came together, and we built the raised beds in the middle of August,” Mary said. “We started planting in September.”   

During this time, Mary was contacted by Eleanor Torres of Ontario who offered to provide architectural work for the group. This was the beginning of their friendship, and eventually Eleanor accepted Mary's invitation to be Co-Executive Director of IECG.   

“We have been friends for about eight years now, and we have built this organization into a multimillion-dollar nonprofit,” Mary said.   

In addition to establishing community gardens, the nonprofit has launched a number of other projects, such as the fruit gleaning program using volunteers to pick unwanted fruit from residents’ backyards so the food could be donated to local food banks and churches.   

The group received a grant from Cal Fire to develop the Veterans Living Memorial Garden at Cal State San Bernardino in 2013. The memorial includes 15 fruitless olive trees and crepe myrtles which bloom in shades of red, white and blue. It’s located just outside the university’s Veterans Success Center.   

Incredible Edible Community Garden is currently working on its most ambitious project yet—the Route 66 Veterans Memorial Corridor. The goal is to plant 3,200 trees in honor of veterans from our communities along the entire stretch of old Route 66 in San Bernardino County.  Each tree will honor a veteran with a permanent marker.    

There will be kick-off events for the project at 10 a.m. on Oct. 12 in downtown Barstow, at 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 13 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8737 in San Bernardino, and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 13 at 18215 Foothill Boulevard in Fontana.  

Visit to learn more about this Second District nonprofit and check out the Incredible Edible Community Garden Facebook page.
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