This morning I bounced my sign up and down and waved at passersby as I paced in front of the Sexlinger Orange Orchard in hope of raising public awareness about OC’s oldest orange orchard in imminent danger of being destroyed. It’s going to be a David and Goliath battle, that’s for certain.
The orange orchard was on the property when the Sexlinger family bought their land in 1913. The Sexlinger sisters bequeathed the land to Concordia University before they died. The university is now in negotiations to sell the property to TAVA Developers who plan to build 24 homes on these five acres. Though the orchard still produces low-hanging fruit, it has no water system, except for the intermittent Southern California rain.
“It’s like the trees don’t want to die,” said my Aunt Elaine who has lived next to this orchard for years, wondering why it couldn’t be turned into an urban garden and learning center. Well, that’s just what the folks at the Grain Project would like to see happen. The plan would be to develop a community center that would illustrate Orange County’s history as one of the most productive agricultural counties in California. The Sexlinger Orange Orchard could represent a distinct and beautiful time in Orange County’s agricultural legacy through a community garden that would feed neighbors as well as provide fresh produce to food banks who service the 500,000 people in Orange County who are vulnerable to hunger or malnourishment.
Our hope is to convince the city council to veto the development. We have 45 days after the Environmental Impact Report comes out June 15. It seems the only way to do this is to push the delicate worth of a time when we valued open spaces and knowing where your food comes from. We need to make partners with the movements that preserve land and advocate for our connection to farms and food.
Sometimes, you can’t stop the Mack truck from barreling down upon you, but at least you can be a speed bump and somehow figure out how to knock that giant down with your sling.
It’s sad for me to imagine a day when kids won’t know what an orange tree looks like or the feel of the dirt beneath their toes as they breathe in the sweet scent of orange blossoms. I’m hoping to preserve this history and the delicious oranges I grew up with…