EDITOR’S NOTE:The battle over the South Central Farm, subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Garden,” has revived with new efforts to buy the 14-acre property. The LA Times in an editorial today takes up the cause of the South Central Farmers. In an email blast (South Central Farmers.docx) today, South Central Farmers activist issued a call to action, saying: “The Farm was a glimmer of beauty, a source of pride for a
poor community and for a mostly concrete-covered urban metropolis. The land sits
fallow, waiting to be a Farm again. To make that happen in just four months, the
Farmers call on all of Los Angeles to help quickly.
The South Central Farmers are asking that everyone who has
heard the story of the Farm take two actions now:1.
you join the Farmers’ mailing list 2.
and that you write to the Los
Angeles City Council and our local politicians to ask them to Stand Up and
support the restoration of the Farm. Here’s an excerpt from the Times editorial:
A South-Central garden spot again?
The urban parcel once cultivated by the South Central Farmers is again available, for a price. It’s worth pursuing a deal with a foundation to get it growing again.
Once there was a farm in South Los Angeles that sprouted among warehouses and railroad tracks. In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers, avocado trees and beans and tomatillos took root and gave 350 families a bountiful harvest and a gathering place. But the plot of land at 41st and Alameda — estimated at 14 acres — was not the farmers’ to keep. Allowed to garden there by the city after it took possession under eminent domain, the land was eventually sold back to a previous owner. The farmers could leave — or buy the property from him for about $16 million.
The 2 1/2-year battle that erupted in 2006 played out like an opera. The South Central Farmers, as the gardeners named themselves, felt betrayed by city politicians. The property owner, Ralph Horowitz, believed — rightly — that he was being unfairly vilified for simply trying to protect his investment. Despite a promise of millions from the Annenberg Foundation, a deal to buy the property and keep the farm going fell through, giving way to the ugly sight of bulldozers plowing crops under. But life went on. Some farmers moved farther south to land that L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry helped them find. Others — who kept the South Central Farmers name — moved to land near Bakersfield, where they continue to grow produce that they sell at farmers’ markets and in several Whole Foods stores. And some quit farming altogether.
Now, nearly five years later, the property that ignited so much drama sits vacant, awash in wild grasses. But it is for sale, and the South Central Farmers want it back.
Perry — who is running for mayor — should at least meet with the farmers to hear their proposal and consider whether to advocate for them. She says she supports community gardens and has created two wetland areas in her district. That’s good. But this piece of land is like no other in her district — a sprawling, flat expanse. Many people were heartened by the presence of the urban farm amid the concrete. Perry herself, in a 2003 letter, hailed the garden as “a vibrant oasis.” If a deal with a foundation can be worked out, wouldn’t it be good to have something growing there again?