Palos Verdes Resident and Gardening Enthusiast Diana Heffernan-Schrader Gets Back to the Basics

A taste for change.

If you live on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, chances are you already know Diana Heffernan-Schrader. A tireless advocate, supporter and volunteer for local philanthropy, land conservation and the arts, she is most widely recognized as the founder and executive director of Palos Verdes School Gardens—responsible for establishing edible education at schools throughout the South Bay.

So what do you do when a pandemic hits and seemingly overnight the world changes … and all the schools and gardens that made up your outdoor classroom for the past 10 years close … and students are required to continue their education remotely while families shelter at home? If you’re a creative, tuned-in professional like Diana, you shift gears. And so began her newest project, Edible Home, and a journey to rediscover the roots of her own passion for gardening.

“It was a perfect pivot,” Diana reflects, “in the sense that we already had the audience, we already had the interest, and all we had to do was step in and provide the information and the education to make it happen in their own personal space, as opposed to the school garden.”

Sounds simple, but this is an example of Diana’s extraordinary ability to look through the lens of her own life and intuitively capture the zeitgeist of what was happening in a lot of other households. As people were home and more engaged in domestic activities and everyday connections with their families, they went back to basics. And there is nothing more basic than home gardening.

However, growing a garden is more than just purchasing a package of seeds. Understanding the steps from seed to kitchen is key, and that’s the service Diana provides as a personal garden coach.

Diana sees her new mentoring role as rewarding for both parties. “It is absolutely 100% unique to that one individual’s garden process,” she says. “It takes them from start to finish. I’ve married the layers of what I do for myself and my family in my garden and kitchen into one product—this Edible Home product—and share it with my friends. It’s not just a business relationship; it’s a friendship that’s growing through food.”

Diana’s life and work in her Palos Verdes community are perfectly intertwined and entirely about building relationships. That’s where her passion lies. But sometimes passion can get lost in the business of running a business. Fortunately, when the school garden program stopped and all the administrative duties fell away, it opened a space for a magical reconnection.

Recently Diana took her daughter Sofia to the place it all began: the first garden created when Sofia was a preschooler at Valmonte Early Learning Academy. A victim of neglect as a result of the shutdown, it was a far cry from the secret garden Diana had lovingly crafted for her daughter and her classmates 10 years earlier.

Undeterred, they went to work—filling bag after bag with weeds and clippings. She recalls, “We were together bringing it back to life, and it was meaningful for me in a way that I cannot even describe to you.”

It proved to be a pivotal moment for Diana, who rediscovered her passion and commitment for the garden program. “At that moment, I realized I’d been so busy trying to manage people that I had let go of the reason why I actually was involved in the first place. And that I needed to be involved, and it had to have my touch because that was what created the extra magic—that love that only a mother has for her child related to how that garden looked. It helped me fall in love with the garden again.”