Lori Yanez started Gabriel’s Garden more than a year ago with an “if you build it they will come” mentality, but has since found in Clovis “they” will come and help you build it.
Yanez had a vision to use a two-acre lot of land she owns on U.S 60/84 near Cannon Air Force Base to start a community garden that would grow fresh produce to benefit people in need.
Living first in a barn on the property, then in a travel trailer, she says she started the garden in memory of her husband, Gabriel Yanez, because she wanted to give back to a community that helped her get on her feet.
Friday, she will move into a house on the property that was donated to her through efforts by Rooney and Moon Broadcasting and finished by local contractors who gave their time free of charge.
Even though she’s overwhelmed with gratitude, Yanez says what she’s thrilled with more than anything else is the way the community has pulled together to help make her gardens a reality.
“The house is my story,” she said. “(But the garden is) working and we really want people to know that we’re a resource out here. It’s not me, this is the community.”
Yanez said almost every day someone stops by the garden and helps to weed or do other chores and on weekends teams of people come to help.
Airmen from Cannon have adopted it, and individual volunteers are also behind the project, she said.
Last year the garden had 13 plant beds and Yanez said that produced enough vegetables to help feed 5,000 people through local charity organizations.
This year volunteers have worked to build 73 beds and she hopes to help feed thousands more.
“It’s amazing how much you can get out of a single plant,” she said.
“The progress that’s been made in the last year and a half is astounding … by starting this I can hold my head up when I go to the food bank because I know that I contribute to what’s going out.”
Yanez said her concept is simple. For people in need, they can come work in the gardens and convert their labor to food so they can feel like they earned the help they receive.
She also wants the produce to supplement organizations in the community that provide food to people in need so they can have fresh food to eat.
The Matt 25 Hope Center, which offers services and resources to meet needs in the community, acts as a fiscal agent for Gabriel’s Garden while Yanez works to obtain non-profit status and has also created satellite gardens at its Thorton Street facility.
Director Steve Reshetar said last year their garden was small with only four plant beds but they were able to distribute the produce through the Matt 25 food distribution program.
Reshetar said fresh food is sometimes hard for people to get when they are struggling financially.
“People always say people need to be eating healthier and often times the cost of fresh produce is really prohibitive so this enables people to get the stuff they’d really, truly like,” he said.
The center has created 12 plant beds this year and is hoping the program will go further.
“We expect to see a substantial increase,” he said.
Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Yanez said she will be holding an open house at Gabriel’s Garden to showcase all the progress and to celebrate completion of her new home.
During the open house, she said community groups will be working on projects and there will be tours, activities for children and more.