Sisterhood Gardens Thrives as a Year-Round Educational Space

Over the years, the garden has become an outdoor space for the entire Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside community to connect with nature and their own neighbors.

A man in Sisterhood Gardens
Tim Wong, a researcher at University of California, San Francisco, talks about plants at Sisterhood Gardens. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Sisterhood Gardens first broke ground in 2016 on the corner of Arch Street and Brotherhood Way, turning a publicly owned green space into an agricultural oasis.

Over the years, the garden blossomed into plots for community members and dedicated areas for flower beds, pollinators, native plants and a hillside orchard.

The garden is managed by the Chinese Progressive Association, an organization that empowers San Francisco’s immigrant Chinese community to build collective power with other oppressed communities to fight for social, economic and other justices for all.

Plants with signage and an beehive
Sisterhood Gardens has much more than plant beds: There is also an apiary and an orchard. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

“Not only are we acting in a reciprocal relationship with them [the community] by taking care of the garden but we're also spending time with each other, learning who our neighbors are and breaking bread over food,” said Amy Huynh, the garden’s program coordinator.

The garden hosts community build days, chances for the public to join in the development of the garden. Tasks range from sorting seeds to prepping the ground for planting. On family days, there are opportunities for groups to get together and explore the garden through activities.

Over the years, Sisterhood Gardens has become an outdoor space for many within the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside community to connect with nature and their own neighbors.

“Community spaces like this are super underrated and they’re really important for your well-being both physically and mentally,” said Ian Oh, a researcher at University of California, San Francisco. “It’s something that more people should come out and enjoy the positive energy and learn something about your local wildlife.”

Volunteers work on the plants at Sisterhood Gardens
Volunteer workers tend to the plants at Sisterhood Gardens. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

The garden is open daily and continuously provide garden workshops and other educational opportunities. Gardeners can even rent 4'-by-8' foot plots for only $30 per year. It does come with several stipulations such as growing your plants organically and participating in at least six volunteer days.

Sisterhood Gardens also has a Solidarity, Organizing and Intergenerational Learning Stewards summer internship program for youth who want to be hands-on with the garden and with environmental justice.

But things aren't always sunny.

Over the summer, the predominantly city-funded garden faced losing the entirety of their $115,000 in funding during the city budgeting process.

Sisterhood Gardens path
Sisterhood Gardens started its development in 2016. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Civic Engagement Director for the Chinese Progressive Association and garden staff member Tiffany Ng, Director of Programs at the Gardens of Golden Gate Park Jamie Chan, Huynh and more rallied at city hall to request restorations of community garden funds as well as funds for workers rights and single-residency occupancy code enforcement rights before the city budget was finalized.

“In other years, we've had to deal with some types of budgets, advocacy and potential cuts but it wasn't as sudden,” Ng said. “We were very concerned and we started letting some of our garden members know, our steering committee know and preparing to go to City Hall and talk to our local supervisor about the significance and importance of a garden for the neighborhood, for the community so we can keep going. Keep growing.”

Sisterhood Gardens volunteer board
Sisterhood Gardens is managed by the Chinese Progress Association. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

For Tim Wong, the garden’s manager and a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, community gardens are important because they bring people from all backgrounds and generations together to meet their neighbors and enjoy a moment outdoors.

“Today, a lot of people don’t have access to garden space or anywhere they can touch soil and grow plants,” Wong said. “I just want everyone to be able to come here and experience all the different kinds of plants we grow and feel the abundance of beauty and color. They have a place that they can go and interact with other people and make friends.”

Sisterhood Gardens

Address: 116 Arch St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., everyday
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