L.A. Throws Down On the Urban Farming Front



At the Jonathan Club in DTLA a little-used tennis court is converted into a fifth-floor garden including neat rows of galvanized horse troughs in which vegetables and herbs are grown.

“It’s just magical. You’re in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. It’s really great at 5 o’clock, when the traffic’s going and you hear the obscenities, and I’m up here snipping arugula.”

This garden yields as much as $150,000 worth of produce every year and cost only about $40,000 to build. The Jonathan Club garden provides work for a local venture called Farmscape Gardens. Farmscape Gardens is the largest urban farming venture in California. They design, install, and maintain urban farms.

“We are bringing the farm back to the city one plot at a time.”

Farmscape Gardens isn’t the only group working to build urban gardens for the people. Niki Mazaroli, program officer at the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas, said one of her foundation’s aims is to help struggling people reach self-sufficiency.

The Leichtag Foundation honors the legacy of Lee and Toni Leichtag through igniting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life, advancing self-sufficiency and stimulating social entrepreneurship in coastal North San Diego County and Jerusalem.

Another group, Muir Ranch, has a community-supported agriculture program in which people subscribe to get weekly flowers or boxes of fresh produce. Much of what’s in the selection comes directly from the farm, but Mud Baron, Muir Ranch’s Project Director, also buys from other local farmers. Muir ranch not only provides fresh local produce for members and supports local farmers, but also gives important training to young people in search of better futures.

“At the heart of what I’m trying to do is to teach these kids to be entrepreneurs,” said Baron, who then talked of further plans — for a food truck run by students and a charter school centered on making things — that would teach kids how to grow vegetables, how to pickle, how to weld benches and how “to really do something.”

There are numerous reasons why urban farming is on the rise: a drive toward self-sufficiency and away from poverty, access to fresh and healthy foods, community and connections, and many more. Los Angeles is the perfect melting pot for these kinds of urban experiments.

Want more info on the farms we discussed? Check out this L.A. Times Article


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