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Sowing Seeds

By Stett Holbrook

FIFTY BUCKS doesn't go very far these days, but a Los Gatos nonprofit organization is hoping to sow seeds of inspiration in young people around the world with $50 donations to promote community gardens.

Former Los Gatos and Saratoga high school science teacher Les Kishler founded Community Gardens as Appleseeds with his wife, Susan, to encourage the growth of community gardens. As college students who came of age in Berkeley in the 1960s, the Kishlers are still committed to making the world a better place.

Kishler was also inspired by the late Alan Chadwick. Chadwick was a master gardener from England who helped create UC–Santa Cruz's student garden project and in so doing spurred an interest in organic and biodynamic agriculture and the field of agroecology.

"We got interested in helping society do things in a positive way," Les says. "It's a way to give back."

Although he retired after 38 years of teaching, Kishler still teaches a class in agroecology at Los Gatos High and he's a firm believer in community gardens as a source community health, physical and intellectual.

By presenting students with a $50 "seed of encouragement" with which to buy garden tools, soil amendments or actual seeds, Kishler hope to inspire students with an interest in community gardens or sustain those already deeply involved. Because it's up to the students how to use the money, Kishler says the awards instill a real commitment to the needs of their community garden projects.

To date, Kishler's 18-month-old group has awarded about 50 stipends to students in Silicon Valley as well as in Ethiopia and Haiti. The Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity have also received funds. He is also working to donate awards to students in Iraq, Israel and Palestine. The organization has received donations from Whole Foods, the Silicon Valley Real Estate Foundation and individual donors.

"Fifty dollars to a 12-year-old can be a substantial sum of money," Kishler says. "A little bit goes a long way."

If you'd to support donate to community Gardens as Appleseeds, go to for more information.

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