Westside restaurant seeks volunteers to maintain, harvest kitchen garden

It’s difficult enough to run a restaurant during the pandemic without having to do your own farming. For Agustín Romo, the owner and chef of the Peruvian restaurant Casa Chaskis, the task has become overwhelming, and now he is looking for volunteers to run his backyard kitchen garden in West Long Beach.

In collaboration with local gardeners, Romo needs help with cleaning up trash, weeding, planting, watering and harvesting winter crops. Since Romo is short-staffed due to the pandemic, the normal workers have been too busy for it, he said.

“It needs more attention than what we can give it,” Romo said.

The winter crops include cabbages, green onions, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy and lettuces, the latter of the two being ripe for harvest, Romo said.

Romo said that anyone willing to volunteer can come at any time during business hours between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Volunteers will have a chance to get gardening training from a master gardener on Fridays at around 10 a.m. and two other days during the week, according to master gardener Lee White, who has been helping with volunteer efforts.

Jeff Rowe, a master gardener with North Long Beach Victory Garden who also serves as a businesses consultant for the Santa Fe Corridor, said they will host their first day of gardening on Monday, Jan. 17 at around 9 a.m.

The specifics on other volunteer days will become available in the near future, White said, as she plans to work with volunteers’ availability. She’s hoping to get about 10 volunteers, who don’t have to all be present at once, to help with the outdoor gardening.

White, who’s a master gardener with the Victory Garden, said that she will be assisting another gardener in crop workshops at Casa Chaskis. Much like the training at the Victory Garden, an instructor will also teach volunteers how to prep soil, plant organically, harvest and compost, White said. In their upcoming round of planting, they’ll be focusing on producing lettuce and herbs, especially since Romo uses lots of spices and herbs, White said.

“Our goal is to work with him on creating a list of things that he actually uses,” White said.

While Romo uses the crops grown in the garden for his restaurant’s dishes, there’s a surplus, so anyone who helps with the gardening can also take some produce home, Romo said. The veggies are also free for anyone else who needs it, and you don’t have to be a volunteer to pick it up, he added.

Romo said that he’s not searching for any master gardeners for the volunteer work. Instead, just anybody who loves gardening, or just “anyone who wants to learn and gets their hands dirty.”

To sign up to be a garden volunteer, contact Jeff Rowe at [email protected] or 562-343-3834. Casa Chaskis is at 2380 Santa Fe Ave.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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