Annie Pierce maintains the garden at Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park in South L.A. (Cheryl Eckford/L.A. Sentinel)


An Earth Day celebration took place at Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park in South L.A. on April 2.  The event, sponsored by the Department of Recreation and Parks, featured resources on wellness for the residents of Los Angeles.

The NaturaGrow Garden Club, led by co-founders Annie Pierce and Celestine Barnwell, was one of the organizations participating in the celebration.

“NaturaGrow coordinates and supports the start-up and cultivation of natural agriculture edible gardens at the home, school and public park, said Pierce.

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“Some of the reasons we should grow food are gardening brings family and loved ones together and the food we grow is healthier, too. We save money on food.”

“By growing your own foods, you make sure it’s healthy,” noted Barnwell. “Now days you find dangerous chemicals used on produce.”

Pierce explained, “We teach teenagers natural agriculture, which is without pesticides, and instead has natural soil.

“During the early 2000s, I discovered a lump in my breast. I became scared, then I remembered a book I read titled ‘Back to Eden,’ a wonderful herbal Bible written by Jethro Kloss and I knew I had all the tools to cure myself,” she recalled.

At Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park, located at 5790 Compton Avenue, L.A. residents can pick their own lemons and enjoy rosemary, sage, mallow, flowers, avocados, and mint. Some plants are not edible, but most are. Residents were all smiles as they viewed the garden and picked fruit, vegetables, and spices.  Also seeds were given away including turnip, honey dew, Swiss Chard, romaine lettuce, and arugula.

“Last summer, I taught 8-week course challenging individuals with diabetes, hypertension, or who are overweight to join the course and use foods to get themselves healthy,” Pierce said.   After the class ended, she said, “Participants had much better health.”

Marina Montgomery from Los Angeles, stated, “I was planting some elderberries at a different location, but was told I couldn’t do that.  So, an acquaintance told me about an abandoned orchard at Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park. The orchard had been shut down due to COVID and the homeless had burned a section of the garden.

“The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks wanted someone to take care of the orchard. Pierce and I agreed to and we started to receive donations of plants from other nonprofits. I help fix the sprinkling system at times using my own funds.  We also received monetary donations,” said Montgomery.

“North East Trees assisted us trying to get us funded. North East Trees is a grassroots community based environmental non-profit planted over 100,000 trees according their website,” she shared.

According to Cesar Valera Special Event Coordinator with the Department of Recreation and Parks, “We are  giving away trees from some 10 different species of trees. In our community we lack a lot of green space, with more trees we can have shade.”

For those who wish to view the garden at Hawkins Nature Park or if interested in school presentations, call (323) 299-9709  or email [email protected]. Also, Pierce is expecting her book, “Just Say No to Cancer,” to come out in July.