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Cornucopia Farms shows off ‘demo garden’

Pepperdine students learn the value of organic gardening.

By Vicky Newman /Special to The Malibu Times

Pepperdine University students pitched in Saturday to help Cornucopia Farms show off its “demonstration garden” and the benefits of organic gardening.

While the students weeded and planted the West Malibu hillside of Cornucopia Farms, co-founder Remy O’Neill, a Los Angeles County environmental consultant, gave a smart gardening workshop to local residents, including Mayor Joan House and City Councilmembers Jeff Jennings and Tom Hasse.

“I’m so excited about this I’m going to get a worm tattoo,” Malibuite Gary Hoffman said of the worm farming and composting workshop.

Jennings bought a composting bin.

The event highlights ongoing and new activities of the Malibu nonprofit organization dedicated to organic farming and running a farmers’ market in Malibu.

“We’re trying to get a county grant to sell composting kits and worm farms at cost,” said Cornucopia co-founder Debra Bianco. “That’s $40 instead of $125, $20 instead of $79.”

Cornucopia has contracts with all the local schools, except Webster Elementary, to introduce Malibu children to home gardens. The fruit and vegetables from the garden at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School are sold at the Malibu Farmers’ Market, so children can learn the principles of business, explained Bianco.

The organization has also applied for a city grant to teach water harvesting and wind screening techniques.

At the heart of Cornucopia’s vision is the idea of children teaching children, Bianco explained. Pepperdine students will oversee high school students, who in turn, will help elementary school pupils.

“I’ll explain Cornucopia Farm’s principles of organic farming,” said Bunnie Poullard, an international studies student.

The students volunteered as part of a service learning project for Progressive Pepperdine, an alliance of Amnesty International, the Feminist Majority, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Alliance and Young Democrats, explained Monalisa Galang, a theater arts major and coordinator of the project. Any student can volunteer.

The Cornucopia garden, densely planted with California native plants, serves as a habitat for butterflies, birds and bees, requires very little water and has stabilized a slope that had serious erosion problems. It also features a fire garden- a row of succulents serving as a natural barrier against the spread of flames.

“When I moved here in 1997, the land was denuded and bare,” said O’Neill.

The four hours of gardening was an exhilarating experience for the students.

“This project makes a lot of sense,” said Christine Nofsinger, a recent graduate. “After working with computers all day, I like the idea of connecting with the earth.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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