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Tri-Valley Heroes: Alamo mom-daughter duo grow and give

Heidi and Amelia Abramson, creators of The Bounty Garden, receive Environmental Stewardship award

Providing a sense of unity, a learning experience and service to the community are all components to be found at the core of The Bounty Garden created by mother-daughter duo Heidi and Amelia Abramson.

The Alamo residents co-founded the nonprofit community service garden, which provides fresh produce to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties. Volunteers grow the fruits and vegetables on-site at Danville's Hap Magee Ranch Park, and the organization is managed by a team made up of eight women called, "The Hive."

Amelia -- currently a junior at Pitzer College in Southern California -- attended The Athenian School in Danville, which requires its high school students to engage in a community service effort. When she was in 10th grade, she went on a field trip to the food bank and noticed fresh produce was scarce.

"The coordinators at the food bank really emphasized the need for fresh produce. This need stuck with me," Amelia said. "When I returned home and saw our private garden overflowing with beautiful, ripe tomatoes, it started me thinking that it would not be too difficult to donate some of the food."

Amelia's mother, Heidi, developed a love and deep understanding about gardening and food growing as a child from her father, whom she said "never wanted to be indoors."

The green thumb was later passed down to Amelia and together they created The Bounty Garden in an effort to build a sense of community among Danville residents and gardeners as well as contribute to a local need.

"We don't have a lot of agriculture in this area, and although the food bank has connections with farmers out in the valley, they get a lot of root crops like potatoes," Heidi said. "You're not going to see a lot of lettuce or delicate stuff because those things don't have a long enough shelf life when it has to be brought in from somewhere else."

Heidi and Amelia were able to gain support for The Bounty Garden among those who wanted to learn how to grow crops as well as seniors who were gardeners throughout their lives and wanted to "get their hands in the soil again."

According to Heidi, the garden also appeals to youth looking for service opportunities such as Girl Scouts, Eagle Scouts and students from neighboring schools.

The Abramsons experienced some initial difficulty getting approval for the garden from Alamo and Danville officials, but they had a group of about 300 supporters who attended meetings and public hearings to speak in favor of the garden, Heidi said.

The garden officially opened in June 2013, two years after the Abramsons first started planning. In its first year, the garden's volunteers produced and donated more than 3,000 pounds of produce.

"I was definitely in awe when it opened," Amelia said. "We had been working on it for a couple years, and over time it felt relatively unachievable. So when it finally opened, it was a little dream-like."

The garden opened with 24 vegetable beds and increased this year with eight additional beds installed using donations from Alamo-based firm John Montgomery Landscape Architects and The Danville-Alamo Gardening Club.

Being located in Hap Magee Ranch Park adds to the appeal of the garden for volunteers because they enjoy the peaceful setting of the park, Heidi said.

"I can be in such a craze and come here, and it's so soothing and relaxing," said Joan Tomasini, food drive coordinator for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties. She said she goes to the garden about twice a week to pick up food that's been harvested.

"And the great thing too is when I pull up to the Church of Concord, they come running out to see what I have. So they're excited about the program," Tomasini added.

While Amelia is away at school, Heidi and The Hive run the program. Amelia said her mom keeps her updated on what goes on at the garden, adding that it's been "amazing" to see the community's support.

"I think my mom and I, throughout the approval process, learned to expect potential failure," Amelia said. "Now that multiple years have gone by, it is an amazing feeling watching the garden continue to thrive."

Hero FYI

* The Bounty Garden's spot receives a good combination of sun as well as shade for compost and keeping the soil healthy.

* Two types of crops are harvested there. Warm crops (grown during summer) consist of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers while cool crops (grown in spring and fall) include beets, broccoli and carrots.

* Radishes, carrots and beets grow exceptionally well in the garden, according to Heidi.

* The vegetable beds were hand-built by Eagle Scouts.

* The word "service" in community service garden is used to separate The Bounty Garden from community gardens where residents grow food for themselves.

* Hap Magee Ranch Park is located at 1025 La Gonda Way in Danville.

* Amelia's major is art conservation, a field focused on preserving cultural property for future generations.

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