We are introducing a series of the many leaders, partners, and neighbors who make a difference in our community. This profile features Les Krammer, docent for the Open Space Authority and volunteer for the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Santa Clara County.When Les Krammer retired from his job at Hewlett-Packard job ten years ago, he was looking for ways to give back to the local community. Living in the northeast corner of Morgan Hill he was familiar with the Open Space Authority’s protected lands and soon discovered opportunities volunteering with the Authority. As someone passionate about spending time outside hiking and biking, Les knew he could contribute by sharing his knowledge of the outdoors with others.
Over the last decade, Krammer has had the chance to do a little bit of everything with the Authority, from trail maintenance to leading hikes. One of the most rewarding activities for him is helping to lead the Authority’s quarterly Anza Trail hikes.
“I actually helped to get the property certified as part of the Anza Trail,” Krammer said, talking about how the Arrowhead Trail at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve was certified by the National Park Service in 2015 as an official interpretive site of the historic Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. “It’s a unique hike, we talk much more about the history of our region than some of the other mostly nature-focused events.”
Today, Krammer splits his volunteer time with the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners Program, working at the organization’s largest property, Martial Cottle Park in San Jose.
Gardening and growing food had always been part of his life. “Growing up, everyone in my family had to help in the garden. Starting from about the age of 4 or 5 years we were all encouraged to take our own plot.” The organization, sponsored by the University of California Cooperative Extension, provides local farmers and home gardeners with research-backed support to increase yields, manage pests, and develop sustainable practices.
As with the Open Space Authority, Krammer does a little bit of everything at the Martial Cottle site: planting and transplanting, weeding, watering, and maintaining the plots. These plots feature seasonal crops and demonstrate to the community what plants grow best at different times of year and with different growing conditions. The Master Gardeners also allow visitors to view a variety of growing techniques - they can observe, ask questions, or try it for themselves.
The Master Gardeners Program has long held a parcel of land at Martial Cottle Park, but it used to be hard to teach public hands-on classes there. In 2017, the Open Space Authority granted $132,353 through the Measure Q Urban Open Space Grant Program to the Friends of the Master Gardeners, a partner of the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, in order to help build a pavilion and fund a greenhouse, which now hold year-round educational trainings and events.
Krammer values this vital connection between open space and the community. He believes that along with protecting quality of life, land protection can also boost the local economy by encouraging people to spend more time in protected open space rather than driving out of town.
“I value open space and the ability to have agriculture and nature around our community,” he says. “In the future, we definitely need to do a better job about how we grow and manage our cities, improving transportation and helping to fight homelessness.”