Since its founding in 1926, the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club has served many purposes: as a social hub for the community, as a key contributor to fledgling charitable initiatives, and even as a civilian casualty center during World War II. But as the community grew and other social organizations began to form, the Garden Club started to embrace a more distinct mission. Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club President Phil Larsen shares with us how the club moves forward in this mission of supporting charitable horticulture and conservation activities both within and outside Rancho Santa Fe, as well as collaborating with other local service-oriented organizations to help bring the community together. Read along to find out more.
Q&A with Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club President Phil Larsen
When and why was the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club founded? Can you tell us a bit of the club’s history?
The Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club was founded in 1926 by a small group from the 45 families living in the area. The purpose was to further the advancement of gardening and landscaping in the Ranch, then just three years old. Since that time, the club has been involved in a number of charitable endeavors. The Garden Club building served as a civilian casualty center during World War II. Other efforts have included making Christmas wreaths for military hospitals, charitable fashion shows that led to the founding of The Country Friends, the 1951 “clean-up and anti-litter” campaign in San Diego County, and charitable giving to organizations, activities, and scholarships that relate to horticulture.
What is the club’s mission?
At the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, we strive to further the development of charitable horticulture and charitable conservation activities, both within and outside the community of Rancho Santa Fe.
“Joining the Garden Club is a great way to meet others in the Ranch and to support worthy goals, learn about gardening, and improve the community.” – Phil Larsen, President
What is your current role within the organization, and what duties does it entail?
Currently I am the president and was elected at the last board meeting in July 2016. My duties are defined in the usual way as to supervise, direct, and control the club’s activities and to preside at members’ meetings and board meetings.
What is the most rewarding thing about your role? The most challenging?
I’ve always enjoyed gardens more than gardening itself. In particular, I enjoy the beauty and tranquility of simply walking near a garden. Years ago, I lived in France and England and was a frequent visitor to the beautiful gardens there. The Garden Club regularly holds Coffee in the Garden activities. This is a great way to see many of the beautiful gardens in Rancho Santa Fe. The most challenging part of my job is to find ways to grow or at least maintain the membership level. That is the same challenge faced by bowling leagues, choirs, and golf clubs across the country. Now there are many more choices in how we spend our time.
Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club | At-A-Glance
How has the organization grown and changed over the years?
In its early years, the Garden Club was the primary social hub in Rancho Santa Fe. As the community grew, other organizations were added as sources of social activity. Three years ago, the Garden Club building was sold. With the funds from the building sale, the Garden Club took on a new mission. Today, through its annual grants program, the club supports horticultural and conservation activities of several nearby organizations.
What are the primary goals of the RSF Garden Club?
The primary goals of the RSF Garden Club include building the grant program, growing club membership, and collaborating with other service-oriented organizations in the Ranch to help bring our community together.
Tell us about the grants that were awarded this year.
Twelve organizations were awarded grants totaling $50,000 at the RSF Garden Club’s Annual Meeting in late May. The funds distributed will be used for projects that promote charitable horticulture and charitable conservation in Rancho Santa Fe and surrounding communities. Recipients were selected from a group of local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations who responded to the club’s request for proposals. The RSF Garden Club grant committee worked very hard to go through the 26 proposals that were submitted, conducting site visits and determining which organizations should be awarded the funds this year.
The grant recipients for 2016 were:
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
Friends of San Pasqual Academy
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Osuna Adobe Restoration Fund at the RSF Foundation
Boys & Girls Clubs of Carlsbad
Encinitas Historical Society
San Diego Botanic Garden
Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild
Carmel Creek Elementary School
Jefferson Elementary PTA
Skyline Elementary School
MiraCosta College Foundation
Are there any exciting projects or events coming up soon?
On Oct. 8 from 4 to 7 p.m., a farm-to-table dinner will be held at Osuna Ranch, 16332 Via de Santa Fe. Ticket prices are $135 each. Proceeds will benefit the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club and the Osuna Adobe Restoration Fund. In November, the club will host a succulent/pumpkin centerpiece activity. The annual tradition of making holiday wreaths, one to take home and one to donate to the RSF Senior Center, will take place in December.
Are the RSF Garden Club members involved in any volunteer work throughout the RSF community?
Through its annual grant program, the club donates to many schools and service organizations to support their horticultural and conservation efforts. For more information on the programs we support visit www.rsfgardenclub.org/grant-program.
“I enjoy the opportunity to work for the community and socialize with longtime friends while furthering the development of charitable horticulture and conservation activities.” – Jim Boyce, Treasurer
How would somebody go about joining the RSF Garden Club? What is the criteria for membership?
You do not have to live in Rancho Santa Fe to be a member of the RSF Garden Club. We invite all horticulture enthusiasts to be a part of this organization, to participate in our activities, and support the grant giving program. Annual memberships are $100 per household. The membership application can be found on the club’s website.
Is there anything you’d like to share that most people don’t know about the RSF Garden Club?
The Garden Club runs the Upscale Resale Shoppe. Fifteen dedicated volunteers take in donations, sort, clean and price items, and display them in the Shoppe. Those who donate can conveniently drop their items off behind the Shoppe’s front gate at 17025 Avenida de Acacias, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Donations are tax-deductible. Anything that cannot be sold is donated to the Disabled American Veterans organization. Come check out the Shoppe Tuesdays through Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You never know what treasure you’ll find!
RSF Garden Club | By the Numbers
Year Founded: 1926
Number of Current Members: 166 Household Memberships
Number of Current Officers: 4
Number of Past Presidents: 58
If you could grant the club one wish, what would it be?
Adequate membership and funds to keep the Garden Club in the Ranch forever!
If you had to describe the RSF Garden Club using only five words, what would you say?
Friendly, welcoming, educational, philanthropic, service-oriented.