South LA Community Farm (Courtesy photo)

On Saturday May 18, Los Angeles residents gathered at the First Year, South LA Community Farm ribbon cutting ceremony. The All Peoples Community Center (APCC) and American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Roots for Peace Program dismantle structural racism within the food industry, transforming a vacant parking lot into an urban farm.

In 2009, a group of high school students at the APCC explored the issue regarding food and health related discrimination. Concluding research led to the student’s proposal of constructing an urban farm that improves access to healthy food among low-income communities.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) encouraged the student’s initiative, and assisted in seed giveaways and door-to-door surveys. Awareness encompassed the framework of related food equity, which formed a sizeable community that developed into the Food Growers Network (FGN). An urban agriculture community that advocates redressing food system inequities in low-income neighborhoods.

Advocates and political influence invested and coordinated a method for students and community residents’ proposal to materialize. AFSC Program Director and LA Food Policy Council Member, Crystal Gonzalez, consulted with City Council and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to ensure the proposal was submitted to impartial process under Urban Agriculture Incentives Zone Program (UAIZ). The UAIZ act, also known as Bill 551, permits landowners in metropolitan areas to collect tax incentives for situating their property for agricultural use.

Curren Price at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (Courtesy photo)
Councilmember Curren Price, 3rd from left, and residents open the First Year South L.A. Community Farm. (Courtesy Photo)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed the UAIZ act, in which operations advanced onto further development. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas took the lead of coordinating resource and finances; working to modernize possibilities of the urban farm to include outdoor kitchen and children’s play area.

APCC Executive Director Saundra Bryant arranged partnership with Meta Housing to locate the urban farm directly across the street from All Peoples Community Center. Bryant and Meta Housing terms and agreements led to a 50-year lease, ensuring the urban farm will remain in the community.

The urban farm is situated on a 6,400 sq. ft. lot. It includes outdoor workshop, education space for children, elevated garden beds for community farming, an outdoor kitchen and farming stand to promote weekly sales. What was once an empty parking lot has now reconnected a community through food awareness and agricultural development. The total project budget was $80,000.

Non-profit organizations, residents, advocates, children and political influence gathered to participate in the festive occasion of the First Year South LA Community Farm ribbon cutting ceremony. The ceremony commenced with the Le Ballet Dembaya African Drum & Dance Ensemble showcasing synchronized dance routines harmonized with the beating of West African drums. Further, Youth of the Roots for Peace Program delivered inspiring spoken word performances to exhibit sentiments of positive reception.

Le Ballet Dembaya African Drum & Dance Ensemble (Courtesy photo)

Advocates and political speakers were introduced and gave robust theoretical analysis reinforcing the structural challenges in the food industry. APPCC Executive Director Saundra Bryant, Meta Housing Corporation Executive Vice President Chris Maffris, AFSC Program Director Crystal Gonzales, Los Angeles Food Policy Council member Rosana C. Franco, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Los Angeles Council Member Curren D. Price Jr. addressed the food insecurity in the community. Council Member Price Jr. stated, “We know how important food access is, how important health equity is; especially, in our [9th] district. We want our district to have access to green space, healthy soil, spaces for the community to come together, and we know by working together we can make that happen!”

Structural racism and economic divestment has historically caused low-income communities to experience the inability to progress food security and community health. The urban farm certainly advocates the frameworks for supplementing food intake with locally produced, healthy fruits and vegetables. This progressive step permits a self-governing community, in which low-income communities can disregard food sovereignty and acquire access to healthy food consumption. Inevitably, profiting from a self-dependent food structure that includes safe, nutritious, affordable, and culturally accepted food.

The South LA Community Farm has compelled children and adults to reconnect within their community through health awareness, collective labor and the foresight to contribute in the development of low-income communities. Urban farmers hope others explore and develop more solutions concerning food justice to prevent diet related illness.