Growing Justice

This initiative focuses on urban gardens, food justice, and community well-being in Watsonville and Pajaro, California. Despite their location in the agriculturally-rich Pajaro Valley, food insecurity is on the rise. Food security refers to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that fulfills household dietary needs and preferences. Often, the very people who labor in the food system are unable to put enough healthy food on the table for their own families.

Initiated by Mesa Verde Gardens (MVG), urban community gardens involving low-income, primarily farm working families have emerged to address food insecurity & diet-related health issues while also promoting a sense of safety & pride. However, data to evaluate the impacts of community gardening in promoting overall community well-being is lacking. CAN’s Growing Justice project, empowers youth & MVG gardeners to understand the interrelated challenges of food insecurity, violence & poor environmental quality; assess the significance of community gardens; and gain practical skills that empower them to advocate for & spearhead changes in their community. 


CAN & the Growing Justice Youth Team collaborated with seven University of California, Santa Cruz undergraduate students from Professor Emily Cohen Ibañez’s Visual Sociology class to produce a 20-minute film, watch here!
Also known as the Strawberry Game, this game created by the Growing Justice Youth Team & modeled off of CAFOD’s Banana Split Game, looks into where your dollars go as they flow through the strawberry food system! Sign-up for our newsletter & join us at one of our events to play it yourself!
• Measure the impact of community gardens on household food security and economics
• Measure the capacity of community gardens to provide a safe haven for community-building and family recreation
• Engage community members in making changes to their food access and food choices through a participatory action research approach
• Empower local youth (ages 14-24) to be leaders in building a more just and sustainable future for Watsonville and Pajaro families
The research will be conducted over a three-year period in order to adequately assess the impact of urban community gardens over time. Local youth and University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz) students are being trained as community researchers who will participate in the development of the research design, data collection and analysis, and the dissemination of the results. Data will be collected through regular participation in garden activities, interviews, and neighborhood walkabouts with individual gardeners, and workshops that engage gardeners in storytelling and community mapping. Yearly evaluations will be conducted, creating an opportunity for dialogue and ongoing assessment of the research design and outcomes for community members.



Dissemination of research findings is an integral part of the PAR process throughout the three years of the study.Year 1 will focus on the development of gardener profiles, Year 2 will focus on the development of a community forum to present these profiles to the public, and Year 3 will focus on the development of a final report and a multi-media tool that will share the impact of community gardens on the lives and neighborhoods of communities facing food insecurity and how individuals and families can be empowered to improve their community’s well-being.

Dissemination will take place with two goals in mind:

  1. Collaborating with youth-researchers and MVG gardeners to develop resources—maps, booklets, etc. that are accessible and will further their own community-based initiatives; and
  2. Amplifying the voices of those not traditionally heard among policy makers, researchers and local institutions.


Latest News

Growing Justice Team Travels to Nicaragua: a Spotlight on Ashley-Solis Pavon

After submitting a resume, writing a cover letter, and going through an interview—all for the first time—Ashley was chosen by a selection committee that included CAN staff and her fellow team members to be one of the two representatives from the Growing Justice youth team at CAN’s 6th Annual International Youth Exchange

By | June 30th, 2016|Categories: agroecology, Food Sovereignty, Growing Justice, Intercambio, News, Nicaragua|

River Park Garden: An Experimental Collaboratively Authored Film

Community Agroecology Network’s (CAN) Growing Justice youth team collaborated with seven University of California, Santa Cruz undergraduate students from Professor Emily Cohen Ibañez's Visual Sociology class to produce a 20-minute film, the River Park Garden Film Collective documentary. Under the guidance of Cohen Ibañez, an award-winning professional filmmaker and anthropologist,

By | February 27th, 2016|Categories: agroecology, Film, Growing Justice, News, Photography, Publications, videos|
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