Mother nature

Cynthia Wright

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Cynthia Wright has a green thumb fueled by a big heart. Three years ago, she came up with the idea to create a community garden—a place where people can go to grow, well, whatever suits their fancy. The Chico Community Environmental Gardens, a nonprofit, has been officially up and running since April 2005. It rents out plots for $50 a season and donated time. A good portion of the two-acre garden is dedicated to produce, which is either sold or donated to area churches and the Torres Shelter, the garden’s neighbor on Silver Dollar Way by Costco. The operation is mostly Wright and her vice president, Kevin Arnoldy, but there are also 20 or so volunteers who work around the garden. In the near future, Wright hopes to add a children’s play structure, donated by Costco, a hen house and more planting gardens. For more information, call 891-9168 or visit

How did you get into this business?

I graduated from Chico State in 2003 with a degree in anthropology, a certificate in forensics and a minor in biology. And I got terrific job offers that I couldn’t take—because in the process of completing my education I got involved with foster care and adoption—little children. You can’t travel with them the way I would have had to for a forensics job. So this was sort of my second choice.

How many children do you have?

I have two birth children, three adopted children and one foster child. And I’ve been married 21 years Sept. 2.

How did you get this organization started?

I got a bunch of my friends together—all Chico State students—and I said, “I have this fabulous idea,” and they said, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” It took about a year and a half of paperwork—we’re a nonprofit—and figuring out whether this would work here.

How much produce do you grow?

We’re producing well over 100 pounds a week. We sell a large part of that and donate the rest.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve accomplished with this garden?

Educating the kids is the single best thing. We recently had 45 kids from the Boys and Girls Club out here. We live in the heart of an agricultural area, and out of the 45 kids, only three of them had ever been in a garden—and not one of them could identify the top of a carrot. They were listing off things like basil, oregano ….

Where do you see the Community Garden in five years?

In five years, I hope to be completely done with the site development. I want to be open year round and able to grow produce year round. And I hope to be making enough money to keep this all going.