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Networking for gardeners 

Garden Matchmaking is a free program linking gardeners with landowners

- MATCHMAKER :  Greg Ellis connects would-be green thumbs with landowners aching for gardens. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • MATCHMAKER : Greg Ellis connects would-be green thumbs with landowners aching for gardens.
If you are a gardener but have no yard or a landowner with unused land, Garden Matchmaking could be the perfect resource. The nonprofit service links gardeners with landowners to help grow their own food.

Greg Ellis, who runs the program, came up with the idea for Garden Matchmaking when he was shopping at a co-op. A card on the bulletin board solicited people to farm a backyard.  Ellis contacted the poster, a retired Cal Poly professor, and has been gardening on his property for a year now.  “He pays all the water and we share the veggies,” Ellis explained. “There are over 50 varieties of plants and his yard isn’t even that big!” Influenced by garden and yard- sharing projects in other communities, Ellis was particularly inspired by Transition Towns, a worldwide program to reduce carbon emissions and oil dependence. Ellis, who’s 25 years old, studied sustainability at Cal Poly academically and by working on the campus organic farm and the Clark Valley Farm in Los Osos. 

Ellis felt San Luis Obispo would benefit from a networking program because of the acute shortage of community garden plots.  With a waitlist of more than 100 people last year, the city's parks department stopped taking names.  Matchmaking seemed a simple solution.  Ellis stressed his program does not compete with the community gardens, it complements them.  The city has agreed to promote garden networking to people on the community garden waitlist. 

Now in its third month, Garden Matchmaking numbers about a dozen people offering to share land or looking for a plot. People have joined for various reasons:  Some are unable to garden because of a disability or old age, others have low incomes and want to grow food. A few are students who live transiently in apartments or dorms and want to create stable gardens.   A couple of matches have already been achieved.  “Human relations are sensitive,” Ellis admitted, “a landowner is allowing a stranger to come onto to his land.” To make a match, each person is screened to determine level of commitment, how food grown will be shared, and the distribution of responsibilities:  weeding, watering, and planting. To smooth interactions, the program provides liability insurance.  The city has provided a grant to help offset costs. 

For aspiring gardeners who lack experience, Ellis hosts potlucks open to the public. His garden parties include hands-on work in a garden as well as dinner.  At these frequent gatherings people bring creative dishes.  One man brought cornbread made with the corn he had grown and milled himself.  “It brings together people with knowledge and with no knowledge in an effort to create and maintain gardens,” Ellis said. 

Through Garden Matchmaking, Ellis hopes to increase awareness on energy use.  Gardeners who grow their food avoid buying vegetables trucked long distances. Ellis wants to strengthen personal interconnections: “It is a program that supports everyone regardless of physical or financial limitations.” Contact Ellis at (760) 382-5164. 

Fast Facts

Admission is free to the Central Coast Lavender Festival in the City Park, Paso Robles July 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The festival will include lavender products, demonstrations, lavender infused foods, seminars, arts and crafts, music, and activities for children. See or call 238-4103. Vendor spots are still available

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County is having their Big Event Sunday, July 18 from 2 to 6 p.m.  With wine and food, the Kentucky Derby themed event will feature parlor horse racing and auctions.  Big Brothers Big Sisters of SLO has paired more 1,200 children with adult role models since 1995.  Admission is $45.  Call 781-3226 for tickets and information or sign onto to preview auction items  

 Coach Chuck Ogle of the Los Osos Middle School Cross Country Team offers a cross-country running class to students interested in joining a team or club.  The class is open to students going into 7th or 8th grade and will be held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from August 16 through August 27 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Lila Keiser Park. The cost is $45. Call 772-6278 or register online at

Intern Alycia Kiley wrote Strokes&Plugs this week.  Send your business and nonprofit news to


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