Eco-tip: Sunflowers at Museum of Ventura County bring message of beauty from compost
Special to Ventura County Star
Local artist Paul Lindhard usually works with stone and produces installations on a monumental scale, but his latest vision, coming into formation during the next few weeks at the Museum of Ventura County, involves the community and features flowers.
Work started over a month ago, as Vincent Amorosino, another local artist and stone mason based at Lindhard’s Ventura sculpture center Art City Studios, formed large, raised beds from piles of boulders on the site.
Many of these boulders were originally part of the Ventura Mission orchard walls. More recently, Jason Brock, also affiliated with Art City, directed activity as Lindhard’s vision began forming against the south wall of the museum, facing Santa Clara Street.
Compost-laden organic potting soil mix, supplied by Agromin and mixed with native soil, filled the raised beds and planters. Ojai-based Center for Regenerative Agriculture added compost tea.
Art City Studios and the Ventura County Compost Network partnered with the museum to coordinate this display, originally envisioned as a contest, wherein nine contestants would vie for a prize by growing the biggest sunflowers. As the project developed, organizers realized a cooperative, community, volunteer-based workforce, closely supervised by experienced gardeners and following only organic gardening methods, would be more appropriate.
Over the next few weeks, volunteers will plant sunflowers and Native American “three sisters” crops in raised beds. Some of those three crops, consisting of corn, beans, and squash, will eventually be replaced by perennials and medicinal plants traditionally used by Chumash, according to Brock.
Denise Sindelar, deputy director of the museum, said the museum worked with community groups to initiate this project as part of an effort to turn a long-neglected space into an educational attraction and community resource. She said outdoor areas of the museum will open June 3, and the interior galleries are expected to open July 1. Central to this exhibit is the soil itself, as the compost is derived mostly from the Ventura County’s own yard clippings. Receiving yard clippings from curbside carts collected by E.J. Harrision & Sons and other recycling haulers, Agromin turns these discards into mulch and compost at sites near Oxnard, Simi Valley, and at locations outside the county.
Using the compost, blended with native soil and other material to create crops and beautiful flowers, makes the activity not just an artistic statement, but also an opportunity for community education and enjoyment.
In addition to promoting compost with this activity and exhibit, the Museum of Ventura County makes compost from food scraps at their Santa Paula branch, the Agriculture Museum.
“We have three composting bins (two plastic, one straw bale) where we recycle much of our vegetable garden clippings as well as our clippings from our native gardens,” said Elena Waller, the Agriculture Museum manager.
Additional yard clippings from museum grounds are collected by Athens Services in Santa Paula and hauled for composting elsewhere.
The Agriculture Museum also has a worm box, purchased through the City of Ventura’s vermicompost bin discount program, and uses it to turn food scraps from their break room into a high-quality soil amendment.
“University of California Master Gardeners are responsible for feeding our squirmy friends” in the worm box, according to Waller. The master gardeners also tend the vegetable garden and maintain 13 raised beds of plants at the Santa Paula site.
As the museum reopens in June, staff and docents will be available Wednesday mornings at the Santa Paula site for questions about the gardens. Currently, the master gardeners work
Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and during the pandemic people have been coming to the museum gate to ask questions while observing social distancing requirements.
On June 16, a workshop at the Agricultural Museum, 926 Railroad Ave., Santa Paula, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., will focus on how to maintain a vegetable garden, including information on composting.
Reservations, through the master gardener website, are required and can be made here.
David Goldstein, an environmental analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-658-4312.