I often see and find inspiration in the links between current events around Los Angeles and our county's agricultural heritage. This week my "ahah" moment came at the Compton Creek Symposium, an event put on jointly by my organization, UC Cooperative Extension, and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council. This was a two-day event that brought together community, staff of government agencies, city officials and local non-profits to discuss the Compton Creek watershed and its renovation.
One symposium presenter, Reginald Fagan, talked about what Compton was like when he was a boy. He grew up playing alongside the creek, collecting shellfish and crayfish, and riding his bike and ponies along its bank. He was a member of the 4-H Bison Club active in Compton at that time. "When I was growing up here we all had gardens. Food wasn't an issue", said Fagan.
Another participant at the symposium told me about growing up in Compton in the late 1950's. "This was the country. There were dairies everywhere".
A piece of Compton's farm history is alive today in the community of Richland Farms, a neighborhood of approximately 400 homes, many on an acre or more of land, where residents own horses and livestock. In fact, I discovered that there is a very active youth equestrian group based in Richland Farms called the Compton Jr. Posse. I had a great time talking with their founder and Executive Director, Mayisha Akbar. Learn about this impressive organization at http://www.comptonjrposse.org/ .
During the two-day symposium, as participants shared their visions for the future of Compton and its Creek, urban agriculture and gardening were mentioned numerous times as viable components of that future. For example, Reginald Fagan is currently working to develop an agricultural resource center for Compton, The Timbuktu Resource Center and Learning Academy, which will engage local youth in sustainable agriculture. Others talked about creating a community garden near the creek. In fact, the approved regional plan for the area is entitled the "Compton Creek Regional Garden Park Master Plan". The plan includes native plants and trees, pocket parks, a community garden, and even a hitching post and watering trough for horses, along with many other features to enhance the area.
To learn more about Compton Creek, go to The Watershed Council website at http://lasgrwc2.org/programsandprojects/llarc.aspx?search=comptoncreek. A copy of the Compton Creek Regional Garden Park Master Plan, which includes history, photos, community input, maps and much more, can be downloaded at the Council's on-line document library at http://lasgrwc2.org/dataandreference/Document.aspx.
For a brief period each spring, cherries are available at several pick-your-own farms in Los Angeles County's Antelope Valley, mostly in the community of Leona Valley. Leona Valley is approximately nine miles west of Palmdale, and about 70 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Quite a few varieties of cherries are available, including Bings, Rainiers, Brooks and Black Tartarians.
Cherry picking is currently underway, and it's a great family outing. This coming weekend, June 20th and 21st, is the peak of the Antelope Valley cherry season, so now is the time to plan your trip. Many of the farms have tables where families can picnic, so you can make a day of it. Some of the Leona Valley cherry farms also produce and sell other items such as honey.
For directions and a list of farms, go to the Leona Valley Cherry Grower's Association website at www.cherriesupic.com/welcome.html . Be sure to visit Leona Valley before this brief, but sweet, season is over for another year.
The Baldwin Park Community Garden sits in the shadow of the San Bernardino Freeway in Eastern Los Angeles County. As the cars rush by, an effective and innovative community garden grows. I was delighted to be a guest of students and their teachers recently. I was impressed with the public-private partnership which made this garden possible to benefit the community and local children.
Nothing heralds the coming of summer in Los Angeles quite like the bloom of our jacaranda trees. Jacarandas produce loads of incredible purple flowers in May and June, with trees lining entire streets in some parts of town. Our in-house tree expert at UC Cooperative Extension, Environmental Horticulture Advisor Donald Hodel, considers this year’s LA jacarandas to look “especially handsome and floriferous”. Don is the author of several books on trees, including “Exceptional Trees of Los Angeles”.
Backyard chickens seem to be popular now, and we’ve been getting quite a few calls and emails at Cooperative Extension about raising chickens. We don’t have anyone here in the LA office with poultry expertise, so I checked in with our UC Extension poultry specialist at UC Davis, Dr. Francine Bradley. She gave me the scoop and some helpful resources for folks who want to raise backyard chickens.