Ashby Community Garden land to go up for sale, members raise funds

photo of Ashby Community Garden
David McAllister/Staff
The Ashby Community Garden greets its visitors with a welcome sign. Members of the Ashby Community Garden are raising funds to purchase the land on behalf of the community.

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A plot of land in Southwest Berkeley, which makes up the east side of the Ashby Community Garden, will be put up for sale Sept. 1 with an asking price of $500,000.

People involved with overseeing the garden finished clearing out the area Tuesday, according to Nora Shourd, one of the garden’s founders.

“It’s hard to move a garden, you can’t just put it in a box,” Shourd said. “We have to leave things like the trees that we’ve planted, one tree that’s been there for 17 years. It’s hard for us, it’s sad. It’s a loss to the community because it’s really the only green space left in Southwest Berkeley at all. There’s nothing like it.”

Shourd said she hopes the property does not sell. Her concern is that if a portion of the Ashby Community Garden is purchased by a large developer, the same company will also look to buy the west side of the garden.

It is not the first time the owner has tried to sell the property, according to garden coordinator Bonnie Borucki. The plot of land has been listed a few times over the garden’s history by the family who has owned it for several decades.

This time, however, the gardeners were asked to vacate the space, Borucki noted.

One garden member, Diana Soline, is leading a fundraising effort to buy the land and keep the garden for the community. She noted that the owners will begin considering offers Sept. 15.

“We’re trying to raise money to save the green space for gardening, some kind of community use, urban farming, anything that would keep it in the community,” Soline said. “There’s quite a bit of life that’s developed there, so it would be a shame to lose it to a six-story building.”

The Ashby Community Garden began in 2004, when a group of activists asked permission to start a garden on two privately owned and undeveloped plots, according to Shourd.

Borucki said she has seen the garden evolve from a space to grow food and hold events to a sanctuary for community members and pollinators.

The garden, which is maintained by volunteers, houses fruits and vegetables that are shared with the community. It also features herbs and pollinators, according to the Ashby Community Garden website.

As noted by Borucki, one gardener involved with the Ashby Community Garden is also a beekeeper.

Borucki noted that members host workshops and have provided space for UC Berkeley students to conduct research in the past. At one point, the garden was even home to a flock of chickens.

“Our vision is to buy it from the owner and put it in trust and keep it as the community’s garden forever,” Shourd said. “You walk in the garden and it’s like a haven, a green haven. You lose the noise of Ashby and you lose the noise, you feel grounded and peaceful.”

Contact Emma Taila at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @emmataila.