Save the Garden

Monday, June 05, 2006

Three Squares

Three meals a day are prepared here on the farm, all with ingredients that are grown on the farm. What's incredible is that this farm has been feeding over 300 mouths a day as people come and go for lunch or dinner or peel themselves out of bed at first light and stumble into the kitchen tent for fresh fruit, eggs, tortillas and other goodies made that morning. There were three women who were running things when I got there and they were logging between 6-9 hours a day cooking for everyone on the grounds.

Without a doubt the food is good. And the fact that housing (which is really a tentspace) and all meals are taken care of is a big reason why folks are coming from all over to meet and shake hands with the farmers. Every meal is vegetarian and completely filling and for those of us meat and dairy lovers there are plenty of options as well.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

No Nos Vamos

There seems to be several reasons why the sheriff's won't be moving in anytime soon to evict us forcibly. These are all guesses at this point but I think they're fairly valid reasons as to why the LAPD is thinking twice about coming here to begin tearing down this community and arrest activists.

1. Media buzz: we're still getting good local media. It even was a national story for a moment and this kind of attention keeps the PD at bay. I doubt they'll come down here in riot gear when a bunch of celebs are visiting with the farmers and community members.

2. Sheriff's re-election on Tuesday: the local sheriff and LAPD chief are up for re-election in about 72 hours...thats a gamble they don't want to mess with. Lee Baca currently holds the office but is currently being shelled by opponents on issues around jail space after he closed down several jails to save money -- all the inmates were given "early-release."

3. Growing support: people continue to come and help out in whatever capacity they can. I met several students from CAL who had driven down to camp out and a contingent of Seattle folks as well. So the question is, when are you coming to the farm?

With the current situation its hard to imagine that a police raid would occur in the next few days. Let's hope that the LAPD is smarter than it was back in '92 and instead of breaking down their very own community they stand up for it.

How about it LAPD? Will you come have tamales with us? You'll be greeted with open arms if you come to join us and not evict us. You're a vital part of our community too.


Just to give you an idea of how odd this 14-acre plot of green is in South Central L.A. checkout the Google satellite image. I'll give you 10 seconds to find the farm...

41st and Alameda, South Central L.A.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Getting a Clue

It seems there's been much more media attention over the past few days. Part of it is definitely tied to the star power of late (Darryl Hannah, Danny Glover and now Alicia Silverstone). Most of it is local but we did have ABC National in the gates for about an hour or so yesterday. And its definitley chaotic with all these cameras and journalists running around. But many of the activists here are fairly accustomed to it all. Julia Butterfly has been fasting for almost 3 weeks now and hasn't come out of the tree for more than an hour now and then. Darryl Hannah has also been in the tree for a long time.

But the local farmers are remaining resolute and that gives everyone hope. Many of the younger adults are absorbing all types of trainings, walk-throughs and other such activities that can only boost their confidence in the struggle to save their farm.

This morning Alicia Silverstone joined us and instantly was drawn to the families who welcomed her with breakfast, flowers! Who can say no to kids?! Silverstone took questions from about a dozen reporters while scooping up local children and greeting the farmers. Afterwards, she and Darryl were taken on a tour of the medicinal plants planted within the farm. About 130 different plants on the farm are used for various medicinal needs. I had a chance to get a few words from Silverstone in between the hubub (cameramen were on the hunt and were never further than 20 feet from her).

Waiting Game

Were at one of the harder moments in all of this. We've been so ready for some sort of police action that we might be overprepared for it. We've had drills in the mornings, simulations and trainings to get ready and I have to say that the community here feels very confident in that preparation. Right now, even though the ball appears to be in the Sheriff's court, we're growing the community every moment. I talked with several community members this morning and everyone is in very high spirits, despite not have showered or slept in a real bed in a long time.

One of the folks I spoke with is leading the overall management and nitty-gritty of the camp. Love, as he is called, is the pep in all our steps. He's usually on the walkie-talkie handing out needs and asking for information. Often, he'll be starting his security shift as everyone else is crawling into bed. He's just one of many community members here who doesn't see any of this as a sacrifice on his part. "It's part of the deal, man, to be a part of a community you can't be too selfish." But you can hear it from the horse's mouth...

Getting to Know Dele

I talked with Dele Ailmen this morning who has been one of the coordinators of the support group here with the South Central Farmers. He is one of the most eloquent men I've come upon here and hails from Nigeria where he got his activism start working on liberal issues during one of the more brutal governments in Nigeria's history. His accent is fantastic (if you like accents) but we got cut off and lost the last 10 seconds or so of his comments. But listen into his 2 mins...its worth it.

Not Today

Woke up this morning around 5 a.m. in our car expecting news of the Sheriff's arrival but alas no dice. No one showed up to evict us and by 9 a.m. we had about 7 media folks here warming up with breakfast and coffee while prepping for Alicia Silverstone's visit. Things are looking good for today.

I met some of our legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild. All are lawyers or current law students who came here to checkout the farm and also provide support in the event of a police raid as legal witnesses. They've got these great neon green hats that stick out like Exxon-Mobil at a Greenpeace meeting: super easy to find in a chaotic crowd. Theresa, Patrick and Bob all came this morning with a few other volunteers expecting some action, but instead were treated to a breakfast of fresh veggies, eggs, beans and fruit all from the farm. I learned some interesting things about the NLG and were impressed that about 8 of them were on hand this morning. They'll be around for the duration. Thanks folks!

Fruit of Labor

There are bunches of documentary filmakers here on site. One has even followed the story of the South Central Farmers over the course of 2 and half years. Thanks to our friend over at BeTwist and BeTween for catching me on to this vid. One of the better short pieces I've seen on the farm.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Eviction Imminent

The lawyers on site have warned us that the sheriff and LAPD would most likely make an attempt to remove the treesitters and families tomorrow morning. It looks like there is a high possibility that this will occur. Community representative Tezo met with the Sheriff Department today and negotiated possible outcomes of such an action. We're all very prepared for what might occur in the next few hours and the community has been working towards a day like tomorrow for over 3 years.

Stay tuned.

Nightly Vigils

Every evening here we have candlelight services. They usually last between an hour and a half to two hours and feature a wide array of community leaders and traditions. Last night the candles were all lit right before dusk and the entire community of 15o people marched around the farm in the streets around the block.

Here are some pics from last night's march and vigil.

The nightly events are key to keeping the bond of the growing community strong. People are constantly coming and going (mostly coming at this point) and the vigils provide an opportunity for everyone to come together in solidarity and remind us all why we're here. For those of us new to this community it provides a wonderful look into the strength of the existing group of dedicated farmers who have been preparing for this day for 3 years.


Tezozomoc, or Tezo, is one of the main representatives of the 350 families here on South Central Farm. He became a rep 3 years ago when the first general notice of eviction came down from the city in September of 2003. "That's when we became South Central Farmers and formed an organized group." They immediately began going to city council meetings two times a week for 3 years straight...and they still attend. They ask one question every time: What can you do to help save the farm?

What has the city council done in response?

"Nothing. They haven't said a word," Tezo replies dryly. Perhaps even more frustrating was that recently Mayor Villaraigosa denied funding to several projects, the farm being one of them, saying the city didnt have the money to support such community endeavors. Yet, that very same day the city announced approval of an $25 million "renovation" to the LA Coliseum.

"We're not just speaking to power here, we're also speaking to policy," Tezo says, "Cities have to be livable. How do you do that? You save spaces like South Central Farm."

It sounds like the community could use more farms and less industrial pollution. The train tracks on either side of the farm not only provide defeaning horns and a thundering racket, but they also are responsible for almost 80% of Wal-Mart's south-western retail supply. Take a walk outside the garden and usually you'll run into a long train carrying hundreds of "China Shipping" crates to retailers. The trains help create some of the highest soot levels in all of Los Angeles. The farm helps dampen the combination of noise and air pollution for a community of people who can't afford to live in the rest of LA.

The structure of the organization (South Central Farmers) is boldly democratic. All farmers are invited to meet every Wednesday where majority rules and the group passes resolutions on membership, community regulations, budget assesments, family needs and larger community decisions. Most of the money the community and organization has comes from the farmer's themselves who unselfishly throw money into the pot to help deal with operating costs. Other funds come from weekly farmer's markets and selling their own fruits and vegetables. Once in a while, they'll hold a concert or other special event to help raise money. But really, they rely on each other.

"We rely on manpower. We are self-sustained and the will of the community is driving this effort," says Tezo. "We aren't the outcome of the situation here. We are merely the instrument of change."

One of the things that has changed the way the community defines itself has been the weekly trips to the city council meetings. There is an strong sense of pride around being a part of this community that has established itself in a rather out-of-place spot. That pride translates into a sense of inclusiveness that you wouldn't find in a gated community.

"We took anyone -- couldn't speak english, couldn't read, whatever -- and we put them in front of the city council. Thats a pretty powerful experience especially for some of our farmers." What this has resulted in is a change in the way the community interacts with the state and local government.

"Its really a way of engaging a people who have been traditionally thought of as passive or uncaring. Now, all of the sudden, you have a population of people who are very concerned with local decisions and leadership."

If anything this place has mobilized activism. And that activism is felt throughout the farm.

Danny Glover in the A.M.

Sorry for the late post here but the only internet connection I can get is at the local coffee house -- which is in the heart of a small arts community here in south central.

This morning Danny Glover stopped by to have breakfast and lend a hand. He spoke of the larger issue this stand the farmers of South Central are taking. He definitely suprised me with his ability to speak to the core of what was really happening here. Urban renewal has lots of faces but the importance of this community around a farm that yields fresh fruits and vegetables and a safe and clean space for children to play has a special space in that discussion. Whether we choose to change our cities with raising new buildings or adding more open space, the idea of locally owned and operated food production can't be ignored. Most of our food travels hundreds if not thousands of miles everyday. Here, we're eating some of the freshest organic fruits and vegetables I've ever tasted. And its all being grown 30 feet from the table.

I'll post a video update in a few...anyone know of decent free software to edit vid clips?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Activist Video

Just received a great activist-created mini-documentary. It's a good run through of the past few weeks here in the garden. Give it a look...

If you can't see it below check it out on YouTube:

Visual Stimulation

The first thing you see when you come to the farm is a slightly dilapadated chain-link fence. On that fence are messages to the world from the community. It definitely creates a sense of strength as you walk in and that feeling is only solidified as you shake the hands of community members, farmers and their families. This has been their land for 14 years and they have farmed it as their own since 1992. It's a key and vital part of the community fabric too and the idea of simply "displacing" the over 300 families that depend on it seems not only cruel but absolutely wrong.

The message in this picture is directed to mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who coincedently just won a run-off against former LA Police Department Chief James Hahn. Villaraigosa visited the families at the farm, spent a few hours talking and hearing their story. I hope Villaraigosa is watching this event unfold. You can send a letter to the mayor at the South Central Farmers website.

Ralph Horowitz, the owner of the land, doesn't have a very friendly Google Scorecard. See for yourself: and there's got to be 5 pages of damaging press coverage of the guy. I was banking on a wiki entry on him but I guess it hasn't gotten that far....yet.

For a complete history of the land deal checkout the second post on LA Weekly's forum section.

Meanwhile, Horowitz protested the 1994 sale to the Port Authority, claiming he had right of first refusal in the event of any sale. He took his objection to court several times, only to be told he had no legal claim. Nevertheless (and this is where the murkiness comes in), at some point — at a time difficult to ascertain, since, said Tezo, “it was never disclosed to people like myself” — Horowitz repurchased the land from the city for only a few hundred-thousand dollars more than he sold it for in 1986. In short order, the Food Bank was told that the farmers would have to vacate the premises to make way for warehouses and soccer fields. Throughout this transaction, the farmers, the people using the land, received no notice that anything was afoot.

We're uprooting one of the country's most established and largest urban gardens and displacing 350 families who depend on them for soccer fields? Soccer fields in south central L.A. no less. Thanks to Michelle Huneven from the LA Weekly for the piece.


About 4 of us came in this morning to the South Central Farm here in L.A. It was such an odd experience to be in the middle of south central LA and suddenly be in the midst of 15 acres of gardens. Everything under the sun is growing but the cactus are what makes the place famous. Ignored my everyone but the locals who know how to cook and prepare it, it appears to be the most prevalent crop around the garden. But, I have yet to walk every inch of this place.

Supposedly, the high amount of CO2 in the air (thanks to the amazing amount of cars in LA) has yielded a green explosion here in the heart of the most developed and paved city in the world. I was more amazed to step into the middle of the garden area and sit under a few trees where the air was fresher, cleaner and alive. This place truly is an oasis.

A bit more history of the farm in a few. In the meantime, trying to get a wireless network up and running on location here seems to be a real challenge.