Unusually Clever People

Mexican gardeners, unite!

I have always thought it odd that the garden media acts as if gardeners–those who work in gardens for a living–don’t exist.  Why not talk to the workers?  Why not make them part of the discussion?

In that spirit, I offer this:  The Bay Area Gardeners Foundation, profiled in this San Francisco Chronicle article.  The foundation was started by an immigrant named Catalino Tapia who came to the US when he was 20, and worked as a baker and a machine operator before starting a gardening business.  He and his wife did what I couldn’t figure out how to do–they became homeowners in the overpriced Bay Area, and then put their kids through college.  After watching his son graduate from Berkeley’s prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law, Tapia decided  he wanted to  organize immigrant gardeners to give scholarships to other kids in need. This year, they gave out 9 scholarships of $1500.  And there’s no citizenship requirement.

How do they raise the money?  From local businesses and clients. Some of their wealthy gardening clients were so impressed that they hosted cocktail parties as fundraisers.  Tapia even asked neighborhood kids to write the thank-you notes, because he thought his own penmanship wouldn’t be good enough.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation had never heard of a scholarship fund started by gardeners, but had this to say about the idea of philanthropy coming from low-paid, immigrant workers rather than society types: 

"In fact, taking tamales to
the church potluck or reading in the classroom – all those little acts
are philanthropic," said Santamaría. "Philanthropy means love of
humankind. We’ve got to spin a much better view of what immigrants are
contributing. … And Catalino is taking it to a different level." 

Rock on, Gardeners Foundation.  And if you feel compelled to contribute:

Bay Area Gardeners Foundation, P.O. Box 3446,   Redwood City, CA 94064

Posted by on October 18, 2007 at 5:52 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
Comments are off for this post

7 Responses to “Mexican gardeners, unite!”

  1. Pamela says:

    I just read the entry about the a florist being sued by a bride because the flowers didn’t reach the bride’s expectations. What a comparison between Mr. Tapia and that bride. She needs to take a lesson from his book. Think of all of the scholarships the Bay Area Gardeners’ Foundation could have granted with her wedding budget.

  2. “The Silicon Valley Community Foundation had never heard of a scholarship fund started by gardeners “,
    Perhaps the Silicon Valley Community Foundation would also like to donate to the CLCA, ( California Landscape Contractors Association ) , we’ve had a scholarship program, a mentoring program and helping hand program for well over 25 years.

    Michelle
    CLCA

  3. susan harris says:

    Naturally I went surfing to learn more, and here’s the link:
    http://www.clca.org/clca/about/wapply.php

  4. JT says:

    Thanks for this story. Having owned a commercial maintenance business for 2 decades I’ve gotten to know many gardeners who work each day with plants and soil, and in the elements. Surely I’ve learned a thing or two from listening to them.

  5. Brooke says:

    That is wonderful, I love this story.

  6. Great story, thanks for bringing it to our attention. Are you sure,the title, “Spanish-speaking gardeners,” or something to that effect might be more accurate? Most of the gardeners I know are from Central America as well as Mexico. In either case, this is an organization worth supporting!

  7. I am always amazed and appalled at the way the immigrant laborers installing new gardens are treated on those HGTV landscaping shows…really, as if they count no more than hoses. Makes me wonder about the people who produce those shows. I’m sure some of these silent workers would have a thing to two to teach the designers about plants, let alone the ignorant homeowners.

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