- Author: Rachel A. Surls
On Saturday, March 31, Angelenos celebrated the Mayor's "Good Food Day of Service." Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and numerous community partners organized this city-wide event to highlight the importance of healthy food and celebrate the legacy of César Chávez. There were 100 participating sites around the city, all featuring community service focused on healthy food access.
I participated at the Glassell Park Community Garden in Northeast Los Angeles by giving several short workshops on container gardening. I had not visited this garden before, and found its history especially interesting. Wedged between apartment buildings and houses, the garden just got started last July, yet already seems to be a hub of community activity. Previously, it was the site of a house that was a notorious drug distribution center. The story of this site was featured in the Los Angeles Times last April. The house was demolished and the lot donated to the City. The area's city councilman believed that a community garden on the site could help the neighborhood heal from years of exposure to criminal activity, and enlisted the partners necessary to make it happen.
In this situation, a community garden was viewed as part of a solution to an urban problem. The notion that growing gardens can help solve urban challenges is becoming common among policymakers. Many municipal leaders are now looking to community gardens and other types of urban agriculture to address issues that range from illegal dumping on vacant lots to lack of access to fresh produce in urban "food deserts." Cities around California and the U.S. are developing policies to support urban agriculture. San Diego, for example, recently passed new policies supporting urban agriculture. A summary of urban agriculture policies in other major US cities was recently released that shows how extensive this movement is across the country. Urban agriculture can encompass everything from community and school gardens, to small commercial farms, to raising bees and chickens in the city.
As for members of the Glassell Park Garden in Los Angeles, they are happy with their small piece of urban paradise. After a drawing, the winners of two remaining plots were announced Saturday, to the great excitement of all participants. To hear from one of the garden's organizers, who is also a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, visit this Good Food LA YouTube clip.