By Elizabeth Warburton-Smith

Almost 10 years ago, we conceptualized the idea of a community garden in Rita Ranch. Three years ago I wrote about this process here in The Vail Voice as we finished creating the Rita Ranch Community Garden located at 7471 S. Houghton Road. We were given full permission to develop and use the land for our garden at no charge, with the stipulation that the land could potentially sell someday. Sadly, that someday has come much sooner than anyone anticipated and we find ourselves in need of a new location. Our non-profit cannot afford to purchase that particular parcel, but we are raising money for the acquisition of land that we can either own outright lease long term. We are also going to need to pay for moving and rebuilding of the garden, so funds need to be raised for that as well.

We are looking for the community to help us come up with a solution to this challenge. Here’s what we have explored so far:

Vail School District: they cannot have any new projects on school grounds right now that require the public to come on campus as their campuses will be closed due to COVID at least into the next year.

Private land: we have had a couple of people offer us land in remote, accessible by dirt road only areas. These unfortunately are not really ideal for a community garden because of how far they would be to drive to.

Purchase: we have found some SE Tucson/Vail spots that might work but they are going to cost money for bringing in waterlines along with the price of the land, money we currently do not have.

Liquidate: if nothing works out, we can liquidate everything and take that money to start another garden somewhere else in the future once we find a location.

By the way, creating a community garden is no easy task! The steps to going from zero to reality are numerous and depend upon things like zoning, type of land (developed or undeveloped), ownership, access to water and utilities, the number of labor/expertise/volunteers involved, and funding. We need to first find a location. Then we have to move EVERYTHING (our entire fence, gates, each cinderblock, irrigation, all the tools, potting bench, wheelbarrows, earthworm bin, shelving, hoses, sheds, solar energy system, etc.) We also will need to rebuild our raised cinderblock garden beds and refill them with organic soil, reinstall our fencing and gates, transplant our trees, spread new mulch on the ground for easy, weed free ground cover, and SO much more. It honestly feels like a monumental task.

What we need most of all is people. People to help us find a location, people to help us move, and people to show their support by donating to our GoFundMe campaign. We are a 501C-3 so every dollar donated is tax deductible.

If you or anyone you know has at least ½ an acre of land that has access to water who would be open to exploring the idea of providing space for a community garden, 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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