Community Change in the Central Valley – Pixley, CA

By Ellen Sloan
This is the second blog post by Board Member Ellen Sloan, who attended Sowing Change 2010, a funder’s tour of the Central Valley.

In the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Fresno, the small unincorporated town of Pixley is building a community that works. This town of 2,900 is dealing with pesticide drift, groundwater contamination, racial discrimination and poverty. Yet the town is working together to build upon their assets and make a better life for themselves and their families.

Common to both rural towns and urban areas is obesity and lack of fresh produce. The very farmworkers who pick the produce that is 50% of the produce eaten in the US have little access to fresh produce themselves. Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) has developed an innovative program in Pixley to help solve that problem.

CCROPP created a fruit and vegetable stand at the local elementary school in Pixley. They buy produce from the same vendors that sell to the school and get the wholesale price. Twice a week, they set up a produce stand staffed by community volunteers who sell the fresh fruits and vegetables. This idea has taken off in other communities who want to replicate the model. CCROPP has created a wonderful, vibrantly colored manual to help others set up a produce stand.

One of Pixley’s best assets is the local elementary school. In fact, it’s become a focal point for much of what is happening in Pixley. Rural schools tend to be rich in land compared to their urban counterparts. In Pixley, they are using 12 acres of school land for a community garden. The farmworkers and other residents now have their own plot of land to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

The elementary school has also become a lifeline of sorts. Pixley’s public library was going to close due to budget cuts. So the school now houses the library, where it stays open past school hours.

The school also boasts a soccer field. CCROPP interviewed the residents and found they wanted a safe place for their kids to play such as a soccer field on the school grounds. For just $500, CCROPP installed soccer goal posts.  Now, while the parents are gardening, the kids are playing soccer within sight.

I really got a feeling that Pixley works. Very refreshing.

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