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CONEJO VALLEY : Organic Garden Club Feeds Both Body and Soul

Vegetables are those ubiquitous objects that conjure up a wide variety of thoughts and emotions--from the dread of children to adults’ hope for a fountain of youth or a cure for their ailments.

They have been a motivation for genetic research and a boon to the petrochemical industry. They are the inspiration of cartoon characters such as Popeye.

And vegetables are what brings the 50 members of the Conejo Valley Organic Gardening Club together for the common goal of growing their own produce without pesticides and chemicals.

Darcey Lober, president, launched the club when she saw that other people had no gardens but were eager to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Lober grew produce in community gardens while she was living in an apartment in Sherman Oaks several years ago. So she established community gardens on donated land in the west San Fernando Valley.

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Club members meet on a regular basis and share organically grown seeds, surplus produce and information on non-chemical pest control and fertilizers, as well as philosophical thoughts on the problems of modern life.

Members have different reasons for participating. Jane Rimer, a vegetarian from Agoura Hills, was looking for good-tasting food. “If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, they have to taste good,” she said.

Rimer has tried to have her own garden, but fires eight and five years ago removed all landscaping from her property. She attends the garden club meetings and tours and is able to supply her family with organically grown fruit and vegetables through the club.

Patti Rose, another member, sees organic gardening as more of a philosophical question. Beyond learning how to grow crops without harming the environment or the human body, Rose wants to become aligned with the natural processes of the Earth.

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Her goal, she said, is to “watch the birds in the garden and to understand the growth processes of plants. I want to understand the relationships between the weather, the plants and the soil.”

Rose heard about the “crop swap,” when club members exchange surplus produce, and began to attend meetings. She had read extensively and gardened organically for 15 years, but found the firsthand information from organic growers extremely helpful.

For example, Rose said, lectures by people growing herbs gave her new ideas about the market for herbs, what they are used for and the most effective fertilizers and pest-control techniques.


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