Today, a fenced-off, empty lot sits like an eyesore on the corner of Normandie Ave. and 105th Street in South Los Angeles’ Athens community. But by mid spring, the lot will be transformed into a thriving community garden where children, seniors and adults from the area will be able to tend their own beds full of vegetables, sit below fruit trees and catch the fragrance of blooming flowers.
As part of a larger effort to increase community gardens around the Second District, approximately 40 wood-framed raised beds, a fruit tree orchard, farm stand and seating area will be built in the intergenerational garden, which will be owned and operated by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. Members of the community selected to plant and tend to a bed, will be given guidance by master gardeners, and must agree to maintain it regularly. The garden is scheduled to be built by the non-profit Los Angeles Conservation Corps. at the end of April.
The plot of land, which is nearly one acre and is currently owned by the county, will be purchased by the Neighborhood Land Trust for $1. From the creation of the state’s first public fruit park in Del Aire to the renovation of Alondra Park, to the ambitious Park-to-Playa plan, a13-mile path that will connect the Baldwin Hills to Ballona Creek and end at the beach bicycle path in Playa Del Rey, Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas has made increasing green space in unincorporated areas throughout the Second District a priority.
“The improvement in the quality of life that comes from having more green, open space is immense,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “It is my goal to continue increasing and improving our public parks, open land and urban agriculture spaces throughout the Second District. These parks, gardens and farmers markets are town centers, gathering places that will give shape and definition to communities for generations to come.”
The majority of funding to build the garden will come from First Five Los Angeles’ Little Green Fingers collaborative — a partnership with a variety of nonprofit organizations that will coordinate to build eight children’s gardens throughout Los Angeles County to help reduce childhood obesity.
With the garden located across the street from the Hale Morris Lewis Manor senior center, it is perfectly suited for intergenerational learning and sharing, encouraging healthy eating habits, engendering a love and respect for nature as older folks pass down cultural traditions and wisdom to youth.
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“The garden can be a catalyst for so many things like a farm stand and farmers market and community events,” said Alina Bokde, executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. “Our goal is to work with the community and the gardeners to make this a community hub.”
The garden also will serve to renew the tradition of gardening in public spaces, which, at the height of World War II, was a common sight in Los Angeles. In fact, the city of Los Angeles developed the slogan “Dig for Victory,” to encourage schools and communities to grow their own food. Nationwide, an estimated 5.5 million gardeners in 1942 participated in the war garden effort, and more than 20 million garden plots were planted with an estimated 9-10 million pounds of fruit and vegetables were grown a year—or 44 percent of the fresh vegetables in the United States, according to the USDA.
While the efforts at 105th and Normandie are not nearly as ambitious, it will be a thriving, verdant source of pride for the community.
“It would help me to teach my grandchildren to eat more healthily. We are willing to participate and learn,” said Alice Scott, 69, a resident of the Manor who is planning to tend a garden plot with her grandchildren. Scott said the urban garden harkened back to her youth in Mobile, Alabama where her family would plant their own crops. “At home we did have gardens. It has been a while. We would grow tomatoes greens, cabbage, okra, green onions, red onions, fruit trees. I think this is a very good idea.”