A Garden Justice Story

I have posted on this issue in the past. It was first brought to my attention when I saw the farm destroyed on the DVD “Escape From Suburbia” (Sequel to The End of Suburbia). When I saw the DVD I thought it was the end of the story until I recieved an email from one of the activists involved saying that it was far from over. Here is the latest –

For Blog Action Day: LA’s South Central Farm

October 15th, 2008  by Susan Harris

Thousands of bloggers around the world are participating in Blog Action Day today by focusing on  poverty, a timely issue that got a lot more so in the last couple of weeks.  But don’t worry; my contribution to the event won’t be about Wall Street but about 41st and Alameda in Los Angeles, where the 14-acre South Central Farm once was the heart of a poor, mainly Latino community and fed 350+ families – until the powers that be allowed a developer to bulldoze it to erect a bunch of storage warehouses.

Yes, that’s the unhappy ending to the documentary “The Garden”, which chronicles the fight to save the urban farm.  The movie, by acclaimed documentarian Scott Hamilton Kennedy, premiered at the American Film Institute, where it won the highest award at its Silver Docs Film Festival. (See my review on GardenRant.)  Truly, you have to see the movie to appreciate the depths of corruption that led local politicians to support the bulldozing and the depths of racism exhibited by the odious developer.  The sight of the bulldozing of not just 400 garden plots but the livelihood, community and culture that had been created by them will break your heart.

But the story – and the fight –  isn’t over yet.  The 14 acres could be returned to garden if they win the next stage – the environmental review, which was demanded by South Central gardeners.  In it, they’re making the point that turning the land into huge storage warehouses will bring a swarm of noisy, polluting diesel trucks to the site, and that using the land as green space is far better for the environment.  But has it really come down to purely environmental factors?  Will the human environment be considered, including crime reduction and the sheer amount of food – really healthy food – that was grown there to feed poor families?  Let’s hope so.

THE SPIRIT OF THE GARDEN LIVES

On a positive note, some of the South Central farmers took their farming skills to Bakersfield, 120 miles north of LA, where they grow food that’s then brought back to the old neighborhood via a CSA (community-supported agriculture) – the cheapest one available to the neighborhood.  So for a fee, they can continue to get really healthy food, admittedly a poor substitute for growing it themselves.

South Central Farmers have also created a grassroots economic project aimed at bringing “green jobs” to the neighborhood, called “Bringing Food to the Hood“.  Its regular events around the perimeter of the old garden are all about food, music, teaching urban farming and nutrition, and keeping the spirit of the farm going.

And you’d better believe they’re using all their grassroots political skills and connections to lobby the City Council and Mayor Villaraigosa to stop the warehouses.  The long battle to save their garden has turned these urban farmers into savvy, experienced community organizers (a term that, incredibly, evoked derisive laughter at a certain party’s convention in St. Paul).

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If you’re in Los Angeles, express your support for the garden to the mayor and City Council.  If you know someone in  LA, send them this article.
Help get this important and very entertaining documentary distributed.  Just contact the filmmakers.
Bring more urban farms to your city.  Here’s a good roundup about urban farming today.

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