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Aiming for good: Virgil Traynor Garden offers abundance to community

By: Tricia Caspers of the Auburn Journal
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Strawberries, peaches, potatoes and corn – those are just a few of the fruits and veggies AIM and Associates’ clients have donated from the recently re-named Virgil Traynor Memorial Garden to feed hungry folks in Auburn.

AIM and Associates teaches life and job skills to adults with intellectual disabilities.

AIM clients live in Placer and surrounding counties.

Brandon Wautlet, AIM specialist, connected his clients to Dr. Virgil Traynor and what was formerly known as the Auburn Rotary Club Garden about eight years ago. Until last May, Wautlet worked in the garden with his clients once a week with Traynor as well as other members of Rotary. Unfortunately, the garden began to go fallow after Traynor’s passing in 2014.

Last May, with the blessing of Jackie Traynor, Virgil’s wife and the owner of the property off of Lonestar Road in North Auburn, Rotary turned the garden over to AIM to manage.

Wautlet and his AIM crew quickly began working in the garden in rotating crews up to five days a week. They installed irrigation lines, pulled weeds, plowed the soil and planted seeds and starters donated from Eisley’s Nursery.

Since that time, with a lot of hard work, they’ve been able to donate more than 1,000 pounds of produce to local food providers, including Auburn Interfaith Food Closet, Elijah’s Jar and Maria’s Tacos, which prepares food for the homeless in its off hours.

“It’s been informational for everybody,” Wautlet said. “A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from.”

Several volunteers didn’t know, for example, that potatoes grow underground.

Other produce the AIM team has grown includes squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and string beans. They also grow flowers such as zinnias, cosmos, angels’ trumpets and teddy bear sunflowers.

“There’s a lot of color out there,” Wautlet said.

Clients not only learn job skills at the garden, he said. They learn the importance of volunteering and giving back their community.

The plot is only one of several places AIM clients volunteer and learn job skills. They may also be seen at the Armed Forces Pavilion and Community Garden, Auburn Interfaith Food Closet, Auburn Police Department and City Hall and Gold Country Fairgrounds, according to Bethany Green, program supervisor. 

AIM clients re-named the Rotary garden after Virgil Traynor because he gave so much back to his community, Wautlet said.

Traynor was a local veterinarian who created the Auburn Community Cancer Endowment Fund. He devoted many hours to many different causes, one of which was the Rotary Garden. He often worked in the Garden with AIM clients, Wautlet said. 

Some members of Rotary still meet with the garden crews and offer advice.

Now that summer has come to an end Wautlet and his clients planted 140 cauliflower plants and 140 broccoli plants which will be ready for harvest in November.

“It’s an honor that (Rotary) allows us to go out and do the work,” Wautlet said. “They are really amazing people.”

Reach reporter Tricia Caspers at triciar@goldcountrymedia.com