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Doolittle Senior Center Community Garden helps feed the hungry

Posted 6/18/2015

Master Gardener Don Fabbi at the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community Gardens

Master Gardener Don Fabbi at the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community Gardens.

Oldest community garden in Las Vegas turns 20

The Doolittle Express is on the right track! For 10 years, Master Gardener Don Fabbi has been coordinating and educating the gardeners, volunteers and neighboring residents at the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community Garden.

“This community garden has been assisting the hungry in our community,” explained Fabbi. Whatever the gardener cannot use at harvest is donated to the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community. “That’s how we came up with the name, Doolittle Express,” he laughed.

You will find Fabbi tending the gardens every day by 7 a.m. Fabbi became a trained, certified University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer in 1997. Including the Doolittle Senior Center Community Garden, Fabbi also assists four other community gardens logging over 19,250 volunteer hours.

The Garden is also proud of the association with National Plant a Row for the Hungry Program. This program, initiated at the garden in 2003, has donated over 6,500 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables to the needy in the community.

The Doolittle Senior Center Community Garden Project located at 1200 Blankenship was formally dedicated on May 17, 1995. The garden is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Divided into 51 individual beds with wide paths and raised beds allows for handicap accessibility. The gardeners, 50 percent Asian and 50 percent African American, bring their own unique vegetables to grow. Currently growing and thriving throughout the gardens are cotton, peanuts, sugar beets, rice, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, sugarcane and five varieties of heat-tolerant potatoes.

Michelle Yaras, community program specialist for the Doolittle Senior Center Recreation Center, commented that Don is the most generous and energetic person she knows.

“He loves to share his knowledge and the history of the garden. I have learned so much from Don—how to plant starts, how to untangle their roots, how to plant them in moist soil, how to use marigolds and hot peppers as natural pesticides,” Yaras added.

The Garden also serves, coincidentally, as the Linn Mills Demonstration Garden for crops not normally considered to be easily grown in Las Vegas’ Zone 9 climate zone.

Master Gardener Don Fabbi at the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community Gardens

Master Gardener Don Fabbi at the City of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Center Community Gardens. Photos courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

“Eight varieties of fruit trees, herbs and a "pizza" garden are grown here,” explained Fabbi, “with tomatoes, oregano, and basil and even the spring wheat for the pizza dough!”

“Even the cacti surrounding the outer fence produce edible fruit for our gardeners and local residents,” stated Fabbi, “making the Garden 99 percent edible.”

Local wildlife resides in and enjoys the garden, too. The Garden provides the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Meeting these criteria is how the garden became a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat in 2007.

“Since the Garden feeds the hungry, provides education and enjoyment to the local community and is a beautiful haven for wildlife,” explained Yaras, “an application was sent in for the Southern Nevada Water Authority Lynn Mills Community Garden award.” The winner will be announced in September. In 2010, the Garden was awarded the National Garden Clubs, Inc. First Place President’s Project Regional Winner, Pacific Region.

“There are so many community partners,” added Fabbi, “including the City of Las Vegas, Cooperative Extension, Moon Valley Nursery, the Eagle Scouts and the Girl Scouts. It truly takes a community to raise a community garden!”

The Master Gardener program teaches sustainable desert gardening practices, including proper plant selection and care, disease and pest management and water-efficient gardening. To become a Master Gardener, an individual must complete 80 hours of horticultural instruction and volunteer 50 hours on community projects each year. The Master Gardener title can only be used when performing volunteer work on behalf of the University.

Master Gardeners are volunteers who teach, assist and work with community partners on projects across the Las Vegas valley. Projects are on-going at Acacia Park, the Springs Preserve, Doolittle and Lieburn Senior Center Community Gardens, the Research Center and Demonstration Orchard and Nellis AFB Environmental Grove.

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