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Three College Students Use Real Estate Crowdfunding to Help Feed Their Community

“Our sustainable community-based agricultural hub demonstrates what happened when people have access to public land for public benefit.” ~Huerto del Valle Community Garden

The Community garden movement is bearing more than fruit. Huerta del Valle (HdV) in Ontario, CA, has used real estate crowdfunding to fundraise the entire cost of adding a physical infrastructure to broaden the scope of benefit to the human infrastructure. This community garden has transformed one of California’s most polluted areas, making the Inland Empire a source for healthy food options, promoting environmental justice and increasing self-reliance and social strength. The land was once a dump site for the unsavory and remained vacant for over 20 years. It now provides food and tangible financial benefit to a community. After 4 years, it is expanding to provide education so that this vault of sustaining knowledge can spread beyond boundary lines and create growing communities. A successful real estate crowdfunding campaign has provided the start, and additional campaigns are in sight.

The Garden of Equality

growing communities, sustainability, real estate crowdfundingHdV is proof that the community garden movement can stand the test of time and has surpassed expectation to provide quality produce to everyone. It sprouted from one person’s desire to address the urgent health concerns of her husband and son. Realizing that fresh produce wasn’t available in her community, Maria Teresa Alonzo,
decided to change this for her family and for her entire community. With a team of Pitzer College students, four acres of public land, 10 Ontario families, and a the desire to change, Maria’s vision for a community garden took form. It has brought high-quality produce to a community otherwise recognized for their toxic land, air pollution, and a thoroughfare for diesel trucks. In 2012, Huerto del Valle benefitted from a public health initiative between Kaiser Permanente and the City of Ontario. The city offered the vacant, once thought unusable land, to HdV under a land use permit. HdV operates under a 10-year conditional use permit with the city. For each year that they remain, add-on options are added to the permit. With the airport nearby, and warehouses and diesel truck traffic flanking the site, residential development would not have been successful. This land is now home to a community gathering space that is an educational hub and a source for healthy sustenance. HdV has become a model for renovating real estate through giving purpose to public vacant land. Plots of vegetables are currently farmed by and feed 63 families and saving them money. As Arthur Levine, one of the Lead Volunteers explained to me, “Huerta del Valle is now a model for rewriting toxic Inland Valley landscapes, where health challenged are the rule for families like Maria’s.” Powered by one wife and mother, who spoke very little english, just think of what a crowd can accomplish! Huerto del Valle community gardens is very resourceful in selling produce on portions of land not used by the 62 assigned families, but they also depend on donations to continue. Peer-to-peer funding has erased common limitations.

Related: Solar Farms-Germinating Power and Communities

Real Estate Crowdfunding The Mother Ship

This successful hub of sustenance is just the beginning. A vacant waste-land has morphed into a valuable piece of rehabbed real estate, serving as a place of sustenance, empowerment, and community. Arthur Levine explained their vision to me very well: This successful plot of sustenance will be somewhat of a mother-ship for what is yet to come. A vacant waste land has morphed into a valuable piece of rehabbed real estate, serving a once neglected community. Four out of 10 deaths to Ontario residents cane be attributed to poor nutrition. As HdV has made great strides to stop this downward spiral, the community is crying out for education to apply healthy sustaining farming for the entire community. Everyone should have, and now can have, access to healthy food. In years to come, we may see community gardens at each mile, and private gardens within most back yards. The Kickstarter campaign started this month, will help fund a portion of the overall plans. In years to come, we may see community gardens at each mile, and private gardens within most back yards. HdV is a small scale solve to a larger challenge: Making healthy food accessible to all, creating a sustainable empowered community, and creating strong leaders and meaningful work within the City of Ontario. The entirely volunteer-run nonprofit organization has produced over 2000 pounds of produce from just 1/6 of the projected growing space. Ready to expand the community garden to 124 plots, HdV will enlist additional crowdfunding campaigns to enable service to twice as many families. This is the first step on the path to the ultimate vision of a community garden every mile, and smart farming inside every back yard. Thanks to three college students, HdV is well on their way to enriching the community on a larger scale. To aid in stretching the resources and knowledge further, an educational and communal center has been designed by three architectural students. The goal of each structure is to provide a home for valuable services while utilizing sustainable building strategies. Their crowdfunding campaign exceeded their original goal by over $400, which propels them well on their way to building the sustainable multi-structure building. The real estate crowdfunding campaign that started this month has raised $17,405 from 152 contributors. That is a great deal of support from an underestimated community. This crowdsourced project, just like other real estate crowdfunding campaigns, has put financial power back into the hands of the people who need this vision to become a reality. This will be one of many campaigns to help HdV complete their ultimate development goals.

Related: Green Space, Wild, Simple & Empowering

The Vision:

  • Create garden members from everyday Ontario residents, working
    growing communities, real estate criwdfunding, sustainability, eco-friend;y click to enlarge

    actively to build the ideal community.

  • Nurture research by Ontario youth, adults about environmental detriments and their solutions.
  • Become a training center to "grow a crop of individuals" who will make the garden-every-mile vision a reality.
  • Shift the food system in this region toward a healthy and sustainable one that is readily available to all.

Learn how to make HdV Compost Tea to keep the soil healthy and protect the plants: Watch the video

From Farm to Fork, to Growing Communities

This community garden has become a community in itself. From providing food, gathering space, work training, and a collaborative education, HdV is also home to a literacy program. The education

growing communities, real estate crowdfunding, sustainable farming Farm to Fork Harvest Festival 2015

building will be home to many services, but we will even see crowdfunding campaigns to raise funds for an amphitheater and library, kitchen and playhouse. As HdV’s Founder continues to perfect her English and learn computers, HdV's life sustaining resources are personal to her. They are also personal to the rest of us as we watch the incredible accomplishment of a person, who spoke very little English and had no knowledge of modern convenience, surpass the personal success of many who do. As the volunteer team, and individual plot managers continue to harvest food and educate the entire community, the larger team is creating a self-sustaining and eco-friendly community within the greater Ontario community: Quite a fete for the Inland Empire long known for harboring toxic pollution, and a thoroughfare for transient diesel trucks barreling through town.

In my conversations with Lead Volunteer, Arthur Levine, I learned that the gifts of this educational resource are not limited to Ontario. They share their experience and brainstorms freely with other communities. HdV hosts student volunteers and acts as a hostel for international students who come to take community gardening knowledge back to their own communities. HdV's accomplishments already surpassed my expectations, yet they have just broken the surface of potential,\ for bettering the human condition worldwide. Watch for additional plans to include a residence for housing visiting scholars and farmers. They will benefit from the free education as they reciprocate elbow-grease and knowledge. I am continually in awe of the realization of one person’s vision brought to life by the empowerment of a crowd. You are welcome to take part by volunteering and donating from this page.

Remember that public interest encourages unlimited involvement, such as real estate crowdfunding. Using the example of one person creating the Huerto del Valle reality, how would you transform a vacant space into something that would benefit your entire community? Leave your thoughts and let us know some of your ideas.

If you want to learn more, take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about real estate crowdfunding on a daily basis and find out why so many people are crowdfunding real estate projects across the country with Patch of Land.
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6 thoughts on “Three College Students Use Real Estate Crowdfunding to Help Feed Their Community”

  • David Poynter

    David Poynter commented February 22, 2016

    Again, this "boomer" is surprised by yet another refreshingly new concept from Patch of Land. Just when I begin to think exclusively in terms of real estate this idea of using "unusable" land to benefit the community comes along. I think the idea is novel and it sounds interesting, but I would be interested to know exactly what "unsavory substances" were dumped in Ontario, when were they dumped and how does the cost of water, fertilizer, time invested compare to the prospect of simply purchasing vegetables and shipping them in. Water is a huge concern when considering backyard gardening in my area (The Sonoran Desert) to the point of decisions being scrapped in favor of store bought items.
    I, however, always look forward to reading another Karen Perkins installment. The way you seem to make a subject which, at first glance, seems uninteresting always seems very interesting and even exciting after the read continues to entertain this old guy. Thanks again, Karen, for an insightful article!

  • Susan

    Susan commented February 22, 2016

    Wonderful concept! My concerns are much like David Poynter's: soil and air toxins as well as water cost. Do the Kickstarter funds help pay for water usage? Love how the video shows the extended vision as well as the projected use of shipping containers and existing soil for buildings. Karen, your articles are always eye-opening. Keep them coming. I'm going to try to post this to Facebook. Who knows who might "kick" in some funding.

  • Kerri

    Kerri commented February 22, 2016

    A brilliant and progressive idea in an area that is plagued with pollution and populated with low income families who rely primarily on fast food and junk food to support their families. I love that Cal Poly Pomona is on board with this project and plans to build a community education center to support education and volunteer opportunity to support this initiative. This is a brilliant and eye opening article about this project and I hope it obtains more exposure in the Inland Empire!

    Karen Perkins

    Karen Perkins reply March 21, 2016

    You have intrigued me: "More exposure in the Inland Empire". My wheels are turning, and I would love to see what we can do to bring more exposure to the project just as you mentioned. In the meantime, please share the article and we'll see how much our Patch Of Land exposure triggers more.

  • Laurie

    Laurie commented February 23, 2016

    What a wonderful, heartening story about the power of one driven person to change a community now and well into the future. A novel use of crowd funding and clearly those funders were so motivated by this exceptional woman's vision. Not only are these families being helped tangibly now, but they are teaching their children to respect plants and the earth, and they will grow up to be stewards of their natural environment. The love of gardening naturally flows from generation to generation, and so will these healthful habits and sense of community accomplishment.

    Karen Perkins

    Karen Perkins reply March 21, 2016

    Thank you, Laurie, for being as inspired by these efforts as we are.
    Very best regards,

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