Meet Cid Barcellos: Gardening for a Greater Good

Grace Garden of the Davis United Methodist Church, located at the heart of Davis, California, is a sustainable garden with a cause. Grace Garden’s goal is to, “grow community which nourishes the body and spirit,” and donate nearly all of their harvest to help feed the hungry. And behind their big mission is a gardener and community leader with a big heart to match. Her name is Cid Barcellos.

From the ground up Cid has transformed the church’s empty lot space into a sustainable garden over the years. Harvesting for Davis Community Meals and finding therapy through the garden, in 2015 Cid was able to harvest 1,700 lbs of produce from the garden to spread throughout Davis. With the help of her many volunteers and their ga(u)rden cat, Gracie, Cid continues to spread not only her harvest, but shares her knowledge as a master gardener throughout the community.

As someone who has dedicated so much of her life to gardening and building a community through food, Cid was the perfect person for us to interview for the first post in our Gardener Spotlight series. Read on to learn more about Cid and her efforts in Davis.

How did you get started gardening?
In 2009 my friend from church took me to a Santa Rosa church with a garden…and it was just beautiful. Then we came back here (Davis Methodist Church) and my friend Gwen and I drove up to the back of the lot and said, “Oh, weeds. We could do better than weeds.” So, that’s what started it all. We put in a few plants that day. It was late so we put plants in and started weeding and planning and we developed the first four 50′ beds, and then four raised beds.

The following year we put in four more 50′ beds and then we put in the orchard, which now has 14 fruit trees. We did it in increments. It took about three years, I think, to get the whole thing out there. There were lots of volunteers from campus. This year has just…. blown me away. The gal who does our computer and website work, she also does it as a volunteer. This year she got it onto the website on campus … and there’s people that come out just to get community service hours. I’ve had like 10-15 (volunteers) every work day. I’m just blown away.

Did you do anything to get help harvesting?
Harvesting is probably one of the easiest jobs. No, I don’t have too much trouble with harvest…doesn’t take very long. But we get it and then we weigh everything so I keep track of how much, how many vegetables we get. It was interesting in 2015 we had 1,700 pounds, which is the most we’ve ever had and that included the fruit trees which are now fully grown.

What are you doing with your produce?
We take it to Friday’s Harvest, the Korean Church, and we give it to Davis Community Meals. So the bulk of it probably goes to Friday’s Harvest, but then Davis Community Meals because they make the meals and they don’t need quite as much.

I try to grow kind of generic food, you know, tomatoes, and not get fancy things because I figure we’re giving it to people who are hungry. If you give them some kohlrabi, or something out there, they’re not going to know what to do with it. I’m not sure what to do with that either…I try to make it pretty simple. They want tomatoes, they want cherry tomatoes and I know which ones they like. We do winter squash like butternut, acorn, and those are the two that we mostly grow because those also hold, they have a long shelf-life, too.

One of the most important jobs we have is taste testing because I don’t want to give anything that doesn’t taste good. The volunteers work hard. They want to taste some or take one home. They work hard and we have a lot of fun out here.

You started being a Master Gardener when you were in Portland in 1986?
Yes. I did it in Portland. Now Portland is so different from here. Their soil is nice, their water is clean, their temperatures are cooler, everything grows there. I am a native Californian and then we moved to Portland from 1981-1991 and then we came back for my husband’s job here.  Between 1991 and 98, 7 years there… I wasn’t in the Master Gardener program.  I thought I knew something about gardening. Then I went, “I know nothing about gardening.” You know, you kind of have to build on it.

Why did you decide to get back involved in the Master Gardener program?
That’s really where my heart lies and I’m passionate about it. I took the classes all over again because I thought that was 86, it’s now 98. I needed a refresher.

Are you volunteering now as a master gardener?
Yes. All the hours I spend here is part of it, so yeah I have like 3,500 hours since I’ve started total, and that doesn’t count the part I’ve spent at home on the computer.

So tell us about Gracie.
She started showing up about 3 years ago. This little grey cat was out here and she chased all the other cats away, so I figured (Gracie) would be of help. I thought, you know, well I got to feed her something. It didn’t look like she had a home so I started feeding her. So, now she has a home, but she’s chased those squirrels up the tree. One time I was out there and I go, “Gracie what are you doing?” She was on the ground so I started walking over and she moved. There was a hummingbird underneath her paw. She had a hummingbird and I said, “You didn’t?!” So I went over and picked the hummingbird up and it flew away.

What’s the thing that drives you to do what you are doing?
“You know the sign out there that says it’s therapy? It really is. It’s really calming. I feel connected to God and to earth and being able to create something not on my terms. It can’t be on my terms. The seasons come and they go and they move along, but it’s just very… it just fills me up… it gives me energy.

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