Zucchini, cucumber, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, kabocha and many other types of squash will be the main attraction at Fertile GroundWorks' September tasting event on Friday (Sept. 22).
The event is the second of the Livermore-based nonprofit's annual garden tastings. Tomatoes were last month's featured produce. "We time these tastings with the readiness of our veggies," said Angela Ko, vice president of the board of directors for the nonprofit.
Fertile GroundWorks, which operates a produce garden located on land owned by Asbury United Methodist Church, was founded 13 years ago and now donates about 20,000 pounds of organic, sustainably grown food every year to local community kitchens and food pantries.
From 3-5 p.m. on Friday, three tables will be laid out in front of the garden with a serving of squash and cheese flatbread, roasted squash salad, grilled squash and a squash pasta, Ko told Livermore Vine.
"They are all cooked and prepared by Teresa Win who is both our Board member and an incredible chef," she said. "The squash, garlic and onions for the event are all from the garden itself, harvested the day before."
Volunteers will be at the tables, serving the food and sharing about the different varieties of squash that went into the different dishes. Samples of the veggies will also be laid out on the table for people to see for themselves.
The nonprofit typically asks attendees to share their thoughts on the taste of each grown veggie and vote on their favorite squashes to be grown next year, Ko said.
The Alameda County Master Gardeners will also have a tent at the event where they will answer questions or share tips on turning over a summer garden for winter.
Initially, there were only 25 spots available for the upcoming squash tasting, but Ko said they had sold out so quickly that they increased capacity to 40. The event is free with registration.
The organization is also gearing up to host its Taste for Giving gala at Retzlaff Vineyards on Oct. 1, which has already sold out. This year's gala marks the return of the tradition since the last event in 2019.
Over the past 13 years, Fertile GroundWorks has built up its presence as a staple in the Tri-Valley that is helping to combat hunger and food insecurity.
In 2022 alone, they hosted and instructed over 1,650 individuals who provided more than 9,468 volunteer hours, allowing them to grow and give roughly 25,500 pounds of nutritious food to the community.
Earlier this summer, the organization was honored with an Environmental Leadership Award for excellence in community engagement from the Alameda County public agency, StopWaste.
Beyond the main garden – which consists of 94 beds of organic vegetables and 100 fruit trees – Fertile GroundWorks also supported 20 schools and three community gardens.
"The goodness of humanity just shines here," said Brenda Kusler, executive director and the garden’s master gardener. "With the generous support of our community members and the help of many wonderful people who come to learn, share, and just plain work hard in the gardens, the gardens are always growing healthy food for our neighbors," she added.
To further its mission and accommodate its growth, Fertile GroundWorks has also seen big infrastructure improvements in the past year, including a new rain catchment system, third hoop house, beehives and compost hub.
The new rain catchment system consists of nine tanks including two 5,000 gallon tanks, with a third 5,000 gallon tank slated for installation this fall. The tanks are connected to the garden’s irrigation system.
The vision was to conserve water during the Tri-valley’s drought periods, according to a statement from the organization. Installing the system came at a perfect time as the tanks collected 15,000 gallons of rainwater from the heavy rainfall this past winter.
The new hoop house is the third and biggest one on site, standing at 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It serves a dual purpose – housing seedlings for all the gardens and the nonprofit's annual spring plant sale. The beehives were started in the spring to help increase the number of pollinators for sustainable, regenerative gardening, according to the nonprofit.
Fertile GroundWorks also partnered with the city of Livermore this year to host a compost hub on site which is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon and Fridays from 3-6 p.m. (or sunset, whichever is earliest). Visitors are asked to bring their own bag or container and help themselves.
More information about Fertile GroundWorks is available at www.fertilegroundworks.org.