Botanical Community Development Initiative (BCDI)

“I grew up in Imperial County and never knew that working in food systems was an option,” said Bianca Bonilla, the director of the Botanical Community Development Initiative, an organization that aims to develop stronger communities by introducing people of all backgrounds to plants and the grown environment. “Access to green space is such a privilege, and we want to change that,” she said. The organization’s Greening Spaces program achieves that goal by introducing urban farms and green areas to low-income neighborhoods. “I am just really motivated by our potential for collective healing—healing our land, healing ourselves, healing each other.”

The Botanical Community Development Initiative was only launched three years ago, but has already been making major impacts through community science projects, new green spaces, and urban educational farms like Community Roots Farm. “We are good at plants. We are good at bringing community together,” said Bianca. “It was always about plants and people, there wasn’t one without the other, and that is where all of this stems from, this interaction between plants and people. For me, the real work is to remind people of our connections and relationships with nature.” 

The Seed to Preschool Program seeks to address both childhood obesity and food insecurity for young children through nutrition education, school gardens, and fresh produce provided by local farms. The Plant Lab provides youth and adults opportunities to learn about botany with programs ranging from training at-risk teenagers in horticultural-based S.T.E.M to collaborative events documenting cross-border biodiversity. “Knowledge sharing about plants does not have to come from the ivory tower, our plant knowledge has been passed through language and traditional knowledge sharing,” said Bianca, who studied botany and received a grant from the USDA to study sustainable agriculture and agri-ecology. “For me, my call into it was this love for the outdoors and nature and learning about our natural world. My mentor was a botanist and to have someone open my eyes to the diversity of our landscapes, to develop a relationship with plants, it made me realize that relationships with nature are the key to making people more likely to care for it.” 

The long term goal of BCDI is to facilitate community development through increased access to the land and skills needed to grow. “Everything is relationships. I am pretty deeply rooted in Oceanside, I’m committed to helping in this community. I’ve been here for seven years and I’ve seen some of these kids grow up. I care about them and their families. That’s what it’s about. That’s where community development really comes in and is most impactful,” said Bianca. “I want everyone to be able to see their landscape, to have botany in public schools, to read and grow their own food, and to know native foods in their region. If that happened, our world would change.”

Bianca Bonilla is the Founder and Executive Director of Bontanical Community Development Intiatives. With an education in sustainable agriculture and agri-ecology, Bianca was called to remind people of their connection to plants and land. Founding BCDI just 3 years ago, she has quickly grown the organization to include three core initaitves; Greening Spaces program, the Seed to Preschool program, and the Plant Lab.

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