By Elizabeth Wharburton-Smith

The Rita Ranch Community Garden has been my passion project since the idea popped into my head 10 years ago. But it is so much more than that. Our community at large has enjoyed the garden in so many different ways: by personally growing and harvesting flavorful, organic produce; touring the garden for design and plant ideas; reaching out to volunteer; asking gardening questions; enjoying movie night; making pizza in our cob oven; or joining us remotely through our YouTube videos (search for us under the name Rita Gardens).

We have seen a lot of changes over the years in the RR Community Garden. From planning the layout, clearing the land, building each bed by hand, planting our fruit and nut trees, dealing with a break in a couple of summers ago, introducing a mouser kitty to handle our critter population, building a cobb pizza oven, and then adapting to Covid. Covid has created changes for gardeners everywhere and we are no exception, maintaining social distancing and making sure that no one enters the space if they have any symptoms of illness. But our organic community garden has also been a benefit during this tragic pandemic. The space offers fresh air, sunshine and food that has the highest nutritional value possible. Boosting our immune systems is paramount right now to keep us all healthy and strong so that our bodies have the best chance of keeping Covid at bay, or at least lessen any symptoms.

The world has also re-discovered that socializing and belonging to a community are also crucial factors to staying healthy for mind body and spirit. A community garden offers the chance to be a part of a group of optimistic, like minded individuals helping each other successfully grow delicious food and beautiful flowers, even if it’s just to inspire others who walk by and enjoy the view. While we have many experienced gardeners, we actually have more beginners than seasoned growers and it’s fun to encourage these newbies on the art and science of growing plants. The nice thing about seeds is that if something doesn’t grow, you can plant another seed and its great to see that lightbulb go off when a new gardener loses a plant and realized that its really easy to replace. Nature gives us an infinite number of ‘do-overs’ and even experienced gardeners like myself have to replant. It’s all part of the cycle.
Of course, the biggest change we are now facing is moving the garden which will be the biggest ‘do-over’ of all. The land has been put up for sale and unfortunately, we recently found out that it is now under contract. So, we are scrambling to find a new, forever home for the Rita Ranch Community Garden in a much more compressed time frame than we had planned on. Our goal is to stay in the Rita Ranch/SE Tucson area and we can use your help if anyone knows of any vacant lots, properties, etc. We are a 501-C3 non-profit so donated land is ideal of course.

To help with raising funds to move, and to lighten the load of what we need to move, we are having plant/garden sales on Saturday mornings from 7am to about noon. Join us if you need anything for your garden as we just might have it. We are located across the parking lot from the Ace Hardware on Houghton, just south of Valencia: 7471 S. Houghton Rd, 85747.

If you would like to help us find a new place or volunteer with the move, please reach out to Elizabeth Smith at Our GoFundMe page is

Elizabeth Warburton-Smith is the founder of the Rita Ranch Community Garden inspiring others to grow organic food. Elizabeth and her husband Gregory recently opened RitaRitos, a food business selling healthy and delicious wraps highlighting organic and local ingredients. Contact Elizabeth:

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